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Title: The Claims of Labour - an essay on the duties of the employers to the employed
Author: Helps, Arthur, Sir, 1813-1875
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1845 William Pickering edition by David Price, email

                          The Claims of Labour.

                             AN ESSAY ON THE
                         DUTIES OF THE EMPLOYERS
                             TO THE EMPLOYED.

                           The Second Edition.

                            TO WHICH IS ADDED,
                            LABOURING CLASSES.

                       [Picture: Title page design]

                            WILLIAM PICKERING

    “There is formed in every thing a double nature of good; the one, as
    every thing is a total or substantive in itself; the other, as it is
    a part or member of a greater body; whereof the latter is in degree
    the greater and the worthier, because it tendeth to the conservation
    of a more general form.  Therefore we see the iron in particular
    sympathy moveth to the loadstone; but yet if it exceed a certain
    quantity, it forsaketh the affection to the loadstone, and like a
    good patriot moveth to the earth, which is the region and country of
    massy bodies.  This double nature of good, and the comparative
    thereof, is much more engraven upon man, if he degenerate not; unto
    whom the conservation of duty to the public ought to be much more
    precious than the conservation of life and being: according to that
    memorable speech of Pompeius Magnus, when being in commission of
    purveyance for a famine at Rome, and being dissuaded with great
    vehemency and instance by his friends about him, that he should not
    hazard himself to sea in an extremity of weather, he said only to
    them, ‘Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam.’  But it may be truly
    affirmed that there was never any philosophy, religion, or other
    discipline, which did so plainly and highly exalt the good which is
    communicative, and depress the good which is private and particular,
    as the Holy Faith; well declaring, that it was the same God that gave
    the Christian law to men, who gave those laws of nature to inanimate
    creatures that we spoke of before.”

                                        _Bacon’s Advancement of Learning_.

    “And well may masters consider how easie a transposition it had been
    for God, to have made him to mount into the saddle that holds the
    stirrup; and him to sit down at the table, who stands by with a

                                                    _Fuller’s Holy State_.



I have great pleasure in dedicating this book to you, as I know of no one
who, both in his life and writings, has shown a more profound and
delicate care for the duties of the Employer to the Employed.  Pardon me,
if following the practice of the world, I see the author in his hero, and
think I hear you speaking, when Van Artevelde exclaims—

    “A serviceable, faithful, thoughtful friend,
    Is old Van Ryk, and of a humble nature,
    And yet with faculties and gifts of sense,
    Which place him justly on no lowly level—
    Why should I say a lowlier than my own,
    Or otherwise than as an equal use him?
    That with familiarity respect
    Doth slacken, is a word of common use.
    I never found it so.”

I have had some peculiar advantages in writing upon this subject.  I
should have been unobservant indeed, if, with such masters as I have
served under, I had not learnt something, in regard to the duties of a
great employer of labour, from witnessing their ever-flowing courtesy;
their care for those who came within their sphere; their anxiety, as the
heads of departments, to recognize every exertion on the part of their
subordinates; and their ready sympathy with the poor and the friendless,
a sympathy which the vexations and harassments of office, and all those
things that tend to turn a man’s thoughts in upon himself, could never

But, happily, it is not only amongst the high in office that such
examples are to be found.  The spirit, and even some of the very modes of
benevolent exertion which I have endeavoured to recommend, have already
been carried into practice, and I trust may be frequently seen, in the
conduct towards their dependents, both of manufacturers and landed

I must also say how much I owe to the excellent Reports which of late
years have been presented to Parliament on subjects connected with the
welfare of the labouring classes.  It is to be regretted that these
reports are not better known.  I have made frequent use of them, and hope
that the quotations I have given may induce my readers to turn to the
original sources.

With regard to the subject generally, it appears to me that knowledge of
the duties of an employer is every day becoming more important.  The
tendency of modern society is to draw the family circle within narrower
and narrower limits.  Those amusements which used to be shared by all
classes are becoming less frequent: the great lord has put away his crowd
of retainers: the farmer, in most cases, does not live with his labouring
men: and the master has less sympathy and social intercourse with his
domestics.  If this be so, if the family circle is thus becoming
narrower, the conduct of those in domestic authority, having a more
intense influence, has the more need of being regulated by the highest
sense of duty: and, with respect to society in general, if the old bonds
are loosened, other ties must be fostered in their place.

You will not be likely to mistake my meaning, and to suppose that I look
back with any fond regret at the departure of the feudal system, or that
I should wish to bring the present generation under its influence.
Mankind does not so retrace its steps.  But still, though the course of
our race is onwards, the nature of man does not change.  There is the
same need for protection and countenance on the one side, and for
reverence and attachment on the other, that there ever has been; and the
fact that society is in many respects more disconnected than it used to
be, renders it the more necessary to cultivate in the most watchful
manner every mode of strengthening the social intercourse between rich
and poor, between master and servant, between the employers and the
employed, in whatever rank they may be.

I am afraid it may be said with justice, that both this letter and the
following Essay are “sermoni propiora,” according to Charles Lamb’s
translation, “properer for a sermon:” but it is impossible to dwell long
on any such subject as the one which I have chosen, without having to
appeal to the best motives of human endeavour; and the shortest way even
to the good which is of a purely physical character lies often, I
believe, through the highest moral considerations.

                                                               Believe me,
                                                           My dear Taylor,
                                                         Most truly yours,
                                                               THE AUTHOR.

London, July 1, 1844.



It is a thing so common, as almost to be ridiculous, for a man to express
self-distrust at the commencement of any attempt in speech or writing.
And yet, trite as this mode of beginning is, its appropriateness makes
each one use it as heartily as if it were new and true for him, though it
might have been a common-place for others.  When he glances hurriedly
across the wide extent of his subject, when he feels how inadequate his
expression will be even to his conception, and, at the same time, has a
yearning desire to bring his audience into the same mind with himself, it
is no wonder if he begins with a few, hesitating, oft repeated, words
about his own insufficiency compared with the greatness of his subject.

Happily, I have not occasion to dwell much upon the importance of the
subject to which I am anxious to engage attention.  For a long time it
has been gradually emerging from the darkness in which it had been left.
The claims of labour and the rights of the humble and the poor have
necessarily gained more of the attention of mankind, as Christianity has
developed itself.  That power was sure, in its gradual encroachments upon
the evil nature of man, to make its voice heard in this matter.  It is a
voice which may come out of strange bodies, such as systems of ethics, or
of politics; but men may call it what they please, it goes on doing its
appointed work, “conquering and to conquer.”

                                * * * * *

Persons of a thoughtful mind seeing closely the falsehood, the folly, and
the arrogance, of the age in which they live, are apt, occasionally, to
have a great contempt for it: and I doubt not that many a man looks upon
the present time as one of feebleness and degeneracy.  There are,
however, signs of an increased solicitude for the claims of labour, which
of itself is a thing of the highest promise, and more to be rejoiced over
than all the mechanical triumphs which both those who would magnify, and
those who would depreciate, the present age, would be apt to point to as
containing its especial significance and merit.

But what do all these mechanical triumphs come to?  It is in vain that
you have learned to move with double or treble the velocity of your
immediate predecessors: it is in vain that you can show new modes of
luxury, or new resources in art.  The inquiring historian will give these
things their weight, but will, nevertheless, persevere in asking how the
great mass of the people were fed, and clothed, and taught: and whether
the improvement in their condition corresponded at all with the
improvement of the condition of the middle and upper classes.  What a
sorry answer any one, replying for this age, would have to give him.  Nor
would it be enough, indeed, if we could make a satisfactory reply to his
questions about the physical state of the people.  We ought to be able to
say that the different orders of society were bound together by links of
gratitude and regard: that they were not like layers of various coloured
sand, but that they formed one solid whole of masonry, each part having
its relation of use and beauty to all the others.

Certainly, if we look at the matter, we have not much to say for
ourselves, unless it be in that dawning of good intentions which I have
alluded to before.  There is to be found in our metropolis, in our great
towns, and even in our rural districts, an extent of squalid misery such
as we are almost afraid to give heed to, and which we are glad to forget
as soon as we have read or heard of it.  It may be that our ancestors
endured, it may be that many savage tribes still endure, far more
privation than is to be found in the sufferings of our lowest class.  But
the mind refuses to consider the two states as analogous, and insists
upon thinking that the state of physical and moral degradation often
found amongst our working classes, with the arabesque of splendour and
luxury which surrounds it, is a more shocking thing to contemplate than a
pressing scarcity of provisions endured by a wandering horde of savage
men sunk in equal barbarism.  When we follow men home, who have been
cooperating with other civilized men in continuous labour throughout the
livelong day, we should not, without experience, expect to find their
homes dreary, comfortless, deformed with filth, such homes as poverty
alone could not make.  Still less, when we gaze upon some pleasant
looking village, fair enough in outward seeming for poets’ songs to
celebrate, should we expect to find scarcity of fuel, scantiness of food,
prevalence of fever, the healthy huddled together with the sick, decency
outraged, and self-respect all gone.  And yet such sights, both in town
and country, if not of habitual occurrence, are at any rate sadly too
numerous for us to pass them by as rare and exceptional cases.

Is this then the inevitable nature of things?  Has the boasted
civilization of the world led only to this?  Do we master the powers of
nature only to let forth a new and fierce torrent of social miseries upon
us?  Let not such thoughts be ours.  Pagans, the slaves of destiny, might
well have held them.  But we cannot doubt that the conditions of labour,
under which man holds the earth, express the mercy and the goodness, no
less than the judgment, of God.

                                * * * * *

Many benevolent persons feel, doubtless, very sensitively for the sad
condition of the labouring classes, and are anxiously looking about for
remedies to meet it.  I would not speak slightingly of any attempt in
that direction.  There are problems in political economy, in government,
and, perhaps, even in the adaptation of machinery, which may be worked
out with signal service to the great cause of suffering humanity.  It is
not my intention, however, to dwell upon such topics.  My object is to
show what can be done with the means that are at the present moment in
every body’s power.  Many a man, who is looking about for some specific,
has in his hands the immediate means of doing great good, which he would
be ready enough to employ, if he had but imagination to perceive that he
possessed them.  My endeavour then will simply be to show what can be
done by the employers of labour in their individual and private capacity.

                                * * * * *

What an important relation is that of Master and Man!  How it pervades
the world; ascending from the lowest gradation of planter and slave
through the states of master and servant, landlord and labourer,
manufacturer and artisan, till it comes to the higher degrees of rule
which one cultivated man has to exercise over another in the performance
of the greatest functions.  See, throughout, what difficulties and
temptations encumber this relation.  How boundless is the field of
thought which it opens to us, how infinite the duties which it contains,
how complete an exercise it is for the whole faculties of man.  Observe
what wretchedness is caused by a misunderstanding of this relation in
domestic matters.  See the selfish carelessness about the happiness of
those around them of men not ill-intentioned, nor unkind, perhaps, in
their dealings with the world in general, but lamentably unfit for the
management of a home.  Then observe the effects of similar mismanagement
in dealing with a country.  Look at the listless loiterers about an Irish
town: you would naturally say to yourself, “Surely this people have done
all that there can be for them to do.”  You walk out of the town, and
find the adjacent fields as listless-looking, and neglected, as the men
themselves.  Think what a want there must be of masters of labour, that
those hands and these weeds are not brought into closer contact.

                                * * * * *

It may be said that the distressed condition of the labouring classes is
owing to temporary causes, and that good times, by which is meant good
wages, would remove a large part of the evil.  I confess it does not
appear to me that a good harvest or two, or ready customers on the other
side of the Atlantic, or the home demand that may arise from exhausted
stocks, or any other cause of that nature which is simply to end in
better wages, would of itself do all, or even any considerable part, of
what we should desire.  I do not, for a moment, mean to depreciate the
good effects that would flow from an increase of employment and better
wages.  But still I imagine that there are many cases in which, if you
were, in ordinary times, to double the amount of wages, a very inadequate
proportion of good would follow.  You have to teach these poor people how
to spend money: you have to give them the opportunities of doing so to
advantage: you have to provide a system of education which shall not vary
with every fluctuation of trade: and to adopt such methods of working as
shall make the least possible disturbance of domestic ties.  No sudden
influx of money will do all these things.  In fact, whatever part of this
subject one takes up, one is perpetually brought back to the conviction
of the necessity which exists for an earnest and practical application,
on the part of the employing class, of thought and labour for the welfare
of those whom they employ.

                                * * * * *

Some of my readers may think that I have spoken of the distress of the
labouring population in exaggerated terms.  Let them only read the
details of it in the Report of 1842, on the Sanitary Condition of the
labouring population, or in the Report of last year, on the condition of
the children and young persons employed in mines and manufactures.  I
scarcely know what extracts to give of these direful reports, that may
briefly convey the state of things to those who have not studied the
subject.  Shall I tell them of children ignorant who Jesus Christ was; or
of others who know no more of the Lord’s Prayer than the first words,
“Our Father:” and whose nightly prayers begin and end with those two
words?  Shall I tell them of great towns in which one half at least of
the juvenile population is growing up without education of any kind
whatever?  Shall I show that working people are often permitted to pass
their labour time, the half of their lives, in mines, workshops, and
manufactories, where an atmosphere of a deleterious kind prevails: and
this, too, not from any invincible evil in the nature of the employment,
but from a careless or penurious neglect on the part of their employers?
Shall I go into a lengthened description of the habitations of the poor
which will show that they are often worse housed than beasts of burden?
Or need I depict at large the dark stream of profligacy which overflows
and burns into those parts of the land where such Want and Ignorance

How many of these evils might have been mitigated, if not fully removed,
had each generation of masters done but a small part of its duty in the
way of amelioration.  But it was not of such things that they were
thinking.  The thoughtless cruelty in the world almost outweighs the

“Why vex me with these things?” exclaims the general reader.  “Have we
not enough of dismal stories?  It oppresses us to hear them.  Let us hope
that something will occur to prevent such things in future.  But I am not
a redresser of grievances.  Let those who live by the manufacturing
system cure the evils incident to it.  Oh that there had never been such
a thing as a manufacturing system!”  With thoughts vague, recriminatory,
and despondent, as the foregoing, does many a man push from him all
consideration on the subject.  It is so easy to despair: and the
largeness of a calamity is so ready a shelter for those who have not
heart enough to adventure any opposition to it.

Thus, by dwelling upon the magnitude of the evils we long to lessen, we
are frightened and soothed into letting our benevolent wishes remain as
wishes only.  But surely a man may find a sphere small enough, as well as
large enough, for him to act in.  In all other pursuits, we are obliged
to limit the number and extent of our objects, in order to give full
effect to our endeavours: and so it should be with benevolence.  The
foolish sluggard stares hopelessly into the intricacies of the forest,
and thinks that it can never be reclaimed.  The wiser man, the labourer,
begins at his corner of the wood, and makes out a task for himself for
each day.  Let not our imaginations be employed on one side only.  Think,
that large as may appear the work to be done—so too the result of any
endeavour, however small in itself, may be of infinite extent in the
future.  Nothing is lost.

                                * * * * *

And why should we despair?  A great nation is never in extreme peril
until it has lost its hopeful spirit.  If, at this moment, a foreign
enemy were on the point of invading us, how strenuous we should be: what
moral energy would instantly pervade us.  Faster than the beacon lights
could give the intelligence from headland to headland; from city to city
would spread the national enthusiasm of a people that would never admit
the thought of being conquered.  Trust me, these domestic evils are foes
not less worthy of our attention than any foreign invaders.  It seems to
me, I must confess, a thing far more to be dreaded, that any considerable
part of our population should be growing up in a state of absolute
ignorance, than would be the danger, not new to us, of the combined
hostility of the civilized world.  Our trials, as a nation, like our
individual ones, are perpetually varied as the world progresses.

    “The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
    And God fulfils himself in many ways.”

We have not the same evils to contend with as our ancestors had; but we
need the same stoutness of heart that bore them through the contest.  The
sudden growth of things, excellent in themselves, entangles the feet of
that generation amongst whom they spring up.  There may be something,
too, in the progress of human affairs like the coming in of the tide,
which, for each succeeding wave; often seems as much of a retreat as an
advance: but still the tide comes on.

                                * * * * *

The settled state of things attendant upon peace, and an unquestioned
dynasty, is good, as it enables men to look more to civil affairs; but it
has, perhaps, a drawback in a certain apathy which is wont to accompany
it.  The ordinary arrangements of social life, for a long time
uninterrupted by any large calamity, appear to become hardened into
certainties.  A similar course of argument would, on a large scale, apply
not only to this country, but to the world in general.  Security is the
chief end of civilization, and as it progresses, the fortunes of
individuals are, upon the whole, made less liable to derangement.  This
very security may tend to make men careless of the welfare of others,
and, as Bacon would express it, may be noted as an impediment to
benevolence.  I have often thought, whether in former times, when men
looked to those immediately around them as their body guard against
sudden and violent attacks, they ventured to show as much ill-temper to
those they lived with as you sometimes see them do now, when assistance
of all kinds is a purchasable commodity.  Considerations of this nature
are particularly applicable when addressed to persons living in a great
capital like London.  All things that concern the nation, its joys, its
sorrows, and its successes, are transacted in this metropolis; or, as one
might more properly say, are represented in transactions in this
metropolis.  But still this often happens in such a manner as would be
imperceptible even to people of vast experience and observation.  The
countless impulses which travel up from various directions to this
absorbing centre sometimes neutralize each other, and leave a comparative
calm; or they create so complex an agitation, that it may be next to
impossible for us to discern and estimate the component forces.  Hence
the metropolis may not at times be sufficiently susceptible in the case
either of manufacturing or agricultural distress, or of any colonial
perturbation.  This metropolitan insensibility has some great advantages,
but it is well for us to observe the corresponding evil, and, as far as
may be, to guard our own hearts from being rendered apathetic by its

I do not seek to terrify any one into a care for the labouring classes,
by representing the danger to society of neglecting them.  It is
certainly a fearful thing to think of large masses of men being in that
state of want and misery which leaves them nothing to hazard; and who are
likely to be without the slightest reverence or love for the institutions
around them.  Still it is not to any fear, grounded on such
considerations, that I would appeal.  The flood-gates may be strong
enough to keep out the torrent for our time.  These things are not in our
reckonings.  Occasionally the upheaving of the waves may frighten timid,
selfish, men into concessions which they would not otherwise have made;
but those whom I would seek to influence, are likely to court danger and
difficulty rather than to shun it.  Nor would I even care to disturb the
purely selfish man by dwelling studiously on any social dangers around
us, or labouring to discern in present disturbance or distress the seeds
of inevitable revolution.  No, I would say to him, if it all ends here,

    “But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,”

you may have chosen wisely.  It is true, there are sources of happiness
which you now know nothing of, and which may be far beyond any selfish
gratification you have ever experienced.  Indeed, it may be, that you
cannot enjoy the highest delights without sharing them, that they are not
things to be given out to each of us as individuals, now to this man,
then to that, but that they require a community of love.  But, at any
rate, I do not wish to scare you into active and useful exertion by
indicating that you are, otherwise, in danger of losing any of the good
things of this world.

The great motive to appeal to, is not a man’s apprehension of personal
loss or suffering, but his fear of neglecting a sacred duty.  And it will
be found here, I believe, as elsewhere, that the highest motives are
those of the most sustained efficiency.

But little as I would counsel despair, or encourage apathy, or seek to
influence by terror, it is not that I look to the “course of events,” or
any other rounded collection of words, to do anything for us.  What is
this “course of events” but the continuity of human endeavour?  And
giving all due weight to the influence of those general currents which
attend the progress of opinions and institutions, we must still allow
largely for the effect of individual character, and individual exertions.
The main direction that the stream will take is manifest enough perhaps;
but it may come down upon long tracts of level ground which it will
overspread quietly, or it may enter into some rocky channel which will
control it; or it may meet with some ineffectual mud embankment which it
will overthrow with devastation.

                                * * * * *

Putting aside then such phrases as “course of events,” and the like, let
us look to men.  And whom shall we look to first but the Masters of
Thought?  Surely the true poet will do something to lift the burden of
his own age.  What is the use of wondrous gifts of language, if they are
employed to enervate, and not to ennoble, their hearers?  What avails it
to trim the lights of history, if they are made to throw no brightness on
the present, or open no track into the future?  And to employ Imagination
only in the service of Vanity, or Gain, is as if an astronomer were to
use his telescope to magnify the potherbs in his kitchen garden.

Think what a glorious power is that of expression: and what
responsibility follows the man who possesses it.  That grace of language
which can make even commonplace things beautiful, throwing robes of the
poorest texture into forms of all-attractive loveliness: why does it not
expend its genius on materials that would be worthy of the artist?  The
great interests of Man are before it, are crying for it, can absorb all
its endeavour, are, indeed, the noblest field for it.  Think of this—then
think what a waste of high intellectual endowments there has been in all
ages from the meanest of motives.  But what wise man would not rather
have the harmless fame, which youths, on a holiday, scratch for
themselves upon the leaden roof of some cathedral tower, than enjoy the
undeniable renown of those who, with whatever power, have written from
slight or unworthy motives what may prove a hindrance, rather than an
aid, to the well-being of their fellow-men?

                                * * * * *

But, passing from those who are often the real, though unrecognized,
rulers of their own age, and the despots of the succeeding generation,
let us turn to the ostensible and immediate ruling powers.  Assuredly the
government may do something towards removing part of the evils we have
been considering as connected with the system of labour.  It seems as if
there were a want of more departments; and certainly of many more able
men.  The progress of any social improvement appears to depend too much
on chance and clamour.  I do not suppose, for a moment, that we can have
the cut-and-dried executive, or legislative, arrangements that belong to
despotic governments; and it is, in some respects, a wholesome fear that
we have of the interference of government.  Still, we may recollect that
England is not a small state, nor an inactive one, where the public
energies are likely to be deadened, or overridden, by activity on the
part of the government, which might, perhaps, with much safety undertake
more than it has been wont to do.  One thing is certain, that it may do
great good, if it would but look out for men of ability to fill the
offices at present in its gift.  No government need fear such a course as
destructive to its party interests.  In appointing and promoting the
fittest men, you are likely to ensure more gratitude than if you selected
those, who being the creatures of your kindness, could never, you
imagine, be otherwise than most grateful for it.  Weak people are seldom
much given to gratitude: and even if they were, it is dearly that you
purchase their allegiance; for there are few things which, on the long
run, displease the public more than bad appointments.  But, putting aside
the political expediency either way, it is really a sacred duty in a
statesman to choose fit agents.  Observe the whirlpool of folly that a
weak man contrives to create round him: and see, on the other hand, with
what small means, a wise man manages to have influence and respect, and
force, in whatever may be his sphere.

I have thought, for example, with regard to the Suppression of the Slave
Trade, that amongst all the devices that can be suggested, one of the
first things would be to tempt very superior men, by large inducements,
to take the judicial situations in the Mixed Commissions, or any other
appointments, in slave-trading parts of the world.  We may expect great
results whenever real ability is brought into personal contact with the
evils we wish it to overcome.

There is a matter connected with the functions of government which seems
to be worthy of notice; and that is, the distribution of honours.  These
honours are part of the resources of the state; and it is a most
spendthrift thing to bestow them as they frequently are bestowed.  It is
not merely that government gives them unworthily: it absolutely plays
with them; gives them, as one might say, for the drollery of the thing,
when it adds a title to some foolish person, whose merits not even the
Public Orator at a university could discover.  It is idle to talk of such
things being customary.  A great minister would not recommend his
sovereign to confer honours on such people; and sensible men would be
glad to see that the resources of the state, in all ways, were dealt with

The above reflections are not foreign to the main subject of this essay;
for a government, having at heart the improvement of the labouring
population, or any other social matter, might direct the stream of
honours towards those who were of service to the state in this matter,
and so might make the civic crown what it was in ancient days.  Not,
however, that I mean to say that the best men are to be swayed by these
baubles.  The hope of reward is not the source of the highest endeavour.

                                * * * * *

There is a class of persons who interest themselves so far in the
condition of the labouring population, as to bring forward sad instances
of suffering, and then to say, “Our rich men should look to these
things.”  This kind of benevolence delights to bring together, in
startling contrast, the condition of different classes, and then to
indulge in much moral reflection.  Now riches are very potent in their
way; but a great heart is often more wanted than a full purse.  I speak
it not in any disparagement of the rich or great, when I say that we must
not trust to them alone.  Amongst them are many who use their riches as
God’s stewards; but the evils which we have to contend against are to be
met by a general impulse in the right direction of people of all classes.
There are instances where a man’s wealth enables him to set forth more
distinctly to the world’s eye some work of benevolence, even to be the
pioneer in improvements, which persons of smaller fortunes could scarcely
have effected.  In such a case great indeed is the advantage of riches.
But do not let us accustom our minds to throw the burden of good works on
the shoulders of any particular class.  God has not given a monopoly of
benevolence to the rich.

What I have just said about individual rich men, applies in some measure
to associations for benevolent purposes.  They are to be looked upon as
accessories—sometimes very useful ones—but they are not to be expected to
supersede private enterprise.  A man should neither wait for them; nor,
when they exist, should he try to throw his duties upon them, and
indolently expect that they are to think and act in all cases for him.
Wherever a strong feeling on any subject exists, societies will naturally
spring up in connexion with it.  What such bodies have to do, is to
direct their energies to those parts of the matter in which it is
especially difficult for private enterprise to succeed.  And private
individuals should be cautious of slackening their endeavours in any good
cause, merely because they are aware that some society exists which has
the same object in view.

                                * * * * *

I come now to some member of that large class of persons who are not
rich, nor great employers of labour, nor in any station of peculiar
influence.  He shudders as he reads those startling instances of
suffering or crime in which the distress and ignorance of the labouring
population will, occasionally, break out into the notice of the world.
“What can I do?” he exclaims.  “I feel with intensity the horrors I read
of: but what can one man do?”  I only ask him to study what he feels.  He
is a citizen.  He cannot be such an isolated being as to have no
influence.  The conclusions which he comes to, after mature reflection,
will not be without their weight.  If individual citizens were anxious to
form their opinions with care, on those questions respecting which they
will have to vote and to act, there would be little need of organized
bodies of men to carry great measures into effect.  The main current of
public opinion is made up of innumerable rills, so small, perhaps, that a
child might with its foot divert the course of any one of them: but
collected together they rush down with a force that is irresistible.  If
those who have actively to distribute the labour of the world knew that
you, the great mass of private men, regarded them not for their money,
but for their conduct to those in their employ, not for the portion which
they may contrive to get for themselves, but for the well-being which
they may give rise to, and regulate amongst others; why then your
thoughts would be motives to them, urging them on in the right path.
Besides, you would not stop at thinking.  The man who gives time and
thought to the welfare of others will seldom be found to grudge them
anything else.

Again, have not you, though not manufacturers, or master-workmen, or
owners of land, have not you dependents, in whose behalf you may find
exercise for the principles to which I am convinced that study in this
matter will lead you?  Your regard for servants is a case in point.  And,
moreover, you may show in your ordinary, every day, dealings with the
employers of labour a considerateness for those under them, which may
awaken the employers to a more lively care themselves.  Only reflect on
the duty: opportunities of testing the strength of your resolves will not
be wanting.

We sometimes feel thoroughly impressed by some good thought, or just
example, that we meet with in study or real life, but as if we had no
means of applying it.  We cannot at once shape for ourselves a course
that shall embrace this newly acquired wisdom.  Often it seems too grand
for the occasions of ordinary life; and we fear that we must keep it laid
up for some eventful day, as nice housewives their stateliest furniture.
However, if we keep it close to the heart, and make but the least
beginning with it, our infant practice leads to something better, or
grows into something ampler.  In real life there are no isolated points.

                                * * * * *

You, who have but few dependents, or, perhaps, but one drudge dependent
upon you, whether as servant, apprentice, or hired labourer, do not think
that you have not an ample opportunity for exercising the duties of an
employer of labour.  Do not suppose that these duties belong to the great
manufacturer with the population of a small town in his own factory, or
to the landlord with vast territorial possessions, and that you have
nothing to do with them.  The Searcher of all hearts may make as ample a
trial of you in your conduct to one poor dependent, as of the man who is
appointed to lead armies and administer provinces.  Nay, your treatment
of some animal entrusted to your care may be a history as significant for
you, as the chronicles of kings for them.  The moral experiments in the
world may be tried with the smallest quantities.

I cannot quit this part of the subject without alluding more directly to
the duties of the employers of domestic servants.  Of course the
principles which should regulate the conduct of masters and mistresses
towards their servants, are the same as those which should regulate the
employers of labour generally.  But there are some peculiar circumstances
which need to be noticed in the application of these principles.  That,
in this case, the employers and the employed are members of one family,
is a circumstance which intensifies the relation.  It is a sad thing for
a man to pass the working part of his day with an exacting, unkind,
master: but still, if the workman returns at evening to a home that is
his own, there is a sense of coming joy and freedom which may support him
throughout the weary hours of labour.  But think what it must be to share
one’s home with one’s oppressor; to have no recurring time when one is
certain to be free from those harsh words, and unjust censures, which are
almost more than blows, aye even to those natures we are apt to fancy so
hardened to rebuke.  Imagine the deadness of heart that must prevail in
that poor wretch who never hears the sweet words of praise or of
encouragement.  Many masters of families, men living in the rapid current
of the world, who are subject to a variety of impressions which, in their
busy minds, are made and effaced even in the course of a single day, can
with difficulty estimate the force of unkind words upon those whose
monotonous life leaves few opportunities of effacing any unwelcome
impression.  There is nothing in which the aid of imagination, that
handmaid of charity, may be more advantageously employed, than in
considering the condition of domestic servants.  Let a man endeavour to
realize it to himself, let him think of its narrow sphere, of its
unvarying nature, and he will be careful not to throw in, unnecessarily,
the trouble even of a single harsh word, which may make so large a
disturbance in the shallow current of a domestic’s hopes and joys.  How
often, on the contrary, do you find that masters seem to have no
apprehension of the feelings of those under them, no idea of any duties
on their side beyond “cash payment,” whereas the good, old, patriarchal
feeling towards your household is one which the mere introduction of
money wages has not by any means superseded, and which cannot, in fact,
be superseded.  You would bear with lenity from a child many things, for
which, in a servant, you can find nothing but the harshest names.  Yet
how often are these poor, uneducated, creatures little better than
children!  You talk, too, of ingratitude from them, when, if you
reflected a little, you would see that they do not understand your
benefits.  It is hard enough sometimes to make benefits sink into men’s
hearts, even when your good offices are illustrated by much kindness of
words and manner; but to expect that servants should at once appreciate
your care for them is surely most unreasonable, especially if it is not
accompanied by a manifest regard and sympathy.  You would not expect it,
if you saw the child-like relation in which they stand to you.

Another mode of viewing with charity the conduct of domestic servants, is
to imagine what manner of servant you would make yourself, or any one of
those whom in your own rank you esteem and love.  Do you not perceive, in
almost every character, some element which would occasionally make its
possessor fail in performing the duties of domestic service?  Do you find
that faithfulness, accuracy, diligence, and truth pervade the circle of
your equals in such abundance that you should be exorbitantly angry, the
moment you perceive a deficiency in such qualities amongst those who have
been but indifferently brought up, and who, perhaps, have early imbibed
those vices of their class, fear and falsehood; vices which their
employers can only hope to eradicate by a long course of considerate

                                * * * * *

I do not speak of the conduct of masters and mistresses as an easy
matter: on the contrary, I believe that it is one of the most difficult
functions in life.  If, however, men only saw the difficulty, they would
see the worthiness of trying to overcome it.  You observe a man becoming
day by day richer, or advancing in station, or increasing in professional
reputation, and you set him down as a successful man in life.  But, if
his home is an ill-regulated one, where no links of affection extend
throughout the family, whose former domestics (and he has had more of
them than he can well remember) look back upon their sojourn with him as
one unblessed by kind words or deeds, I contend that that man has not
been successful.  Whatever good fortune he may have in the world, it is
to be remembered that he has always left one important fortress untaken
behind him.  That man’s life does not surely read well whose benevolence
has found no central home.  It may have sent forth rays in various
directions, but there should have been a warm focus of love—that home
nest which is formed round a good man’s heart.

                                * * * * *

Having spoken of some of the duties of private persons, we come now to
the great employers of labour.  Would that they all saw the greatness of
their position.  Strange as it may sound, they are the successors of the
feudal barons, they it is who lead thousands to peaceful conquests, and
upon whom, in great measure, depends the happiness of large masses of
mankind.  As Mr. Carlyle says, “The Leaders of Industry, if Industry is
ever to be led, are virtually the Captains of the World; if there be no
nobleness in them, there will never be an Aristocracy more.”  Can a man,
who has this destiny entrusted to him, imagine that his vocation consists
merely in getting together a large lump of gold, and then being off with
it, to enjoy it, as he fancies, in some other place: as if that which is
but a small part of his business in life, were all in all to him; as if
indeed, the parable of the talents were to be taken literally, and that a
man should think that he has done his part when he has made much gold and
silver out of little?  If these men saw their position rightly, what
would be their objects, what their pleasures?  Their objects would not
consist in foolish vyings with each other about the grandeur or the
glitter of life.  But in directing the employment of labour, they would
find room for the exercise of all the powers of their minds, of their
best affections, and of whatever was worthy in their ambition.  Their
occupation, so far from being a limited sphere of action, is one which
may give scope to minds of the most various capacity.  While one man may
undertake those obvious labours of benevolent superintendence which are
of immediate and pressing necessity, another may devote himself to more
remote and indirect methods of improving the condition of those about
him, which are often not the less valuable because of their indirectness.
In short, it is evident that to lead the labour of large masses of
people, and to do that, not merely with a view to the greatest product of
commodities, but to the best interests of the producers, is a matter
which will sufficiently and worthily occupy men of the strongest minds
aided by all the attainments which cultivation can bestow.

I do not wish to assert a principle larger than the occasion demands: and
I am, therefore unwilling to declare that we cannot justly enter into a
relation so meagre with our fellow-creatures, as that of employing all
their labour, and giving them nothing but money in return.  There might,
perhaps, be a state of society in which such a relation would not be
culpable, a state in which the great mass of the employed were cultivated
and considerate men; and where the common interests of master and man
were well understood.  But we have not to deal with any such imaginary
case.  So far from working men being the considerate creatures we have
just imagined them, it is absolutely requisite to protect, in the most
stringent manner, the interests of the children against the parents, who
are often anxious to employ their little ones most immaturely.  Nay
more—it is notorious that working men will frequently omit to take even
the slightest precaution in matters connected with the preservation of
their own lives.  If these poor men do not demand from you as Christians
something more than mere money wages, what do the injunctions about
charity mean?  If those employed by you are not your neighbours, who are?

                                * * * * *

But, some great employer may exclaim: “It is hard that we the agents
between the consumer and the producer should have all the sacrifices to
make, should have all the labouring population thrown, as it were, on our
hands.”  In reply, I say that I have laid down no such doctrine.  I have
urged the consumer to perform his duties, and tried to point out to him
what some of those duties are.  As a citizen, he may employ himself in
understanding this subject, and in directing others rightly; he may, in
his capacity of voter, or in his fair influence on voters, urge upon the
state its duty, and show, that as an individual, he would gladly bear his
share of any increased burdens which that duty might entail upon the
state.  He may prove in many ways, as a mere purchaser, his concern for
the interests of the producer.  And there are, doubtless, occasions on
which you, the great employers of labour, may call upon him to make large
sacrifices of his money, his time, and his thoughts, for the welfare of
the labouring classes.  His example and his encouragement may cheer you
on; and as a citizen, as an instructor, as a neighbour, in all the
capacities of life, he may act and speak in a way that may indirectly, if
not directly, support your more manifest endeavours in the same good
cause.  It is to no one class that I speak.  We are all bound to do
something towards this good work.  If, hereafter, I go more into detail
as regards the especial methods of improving his work-people that a
manufacturer might employ, it is not that I wish to point out
manufacturers as a class especially deficient in right feelings towards
those under them.  Far from it.  Much of what I shall venture to suggest
has been learnt from what I have seen and heard, amongst the
manufacturers themselves.


Supposing, reader, that whether you are manufacturer, master-workman,
owner of land, or private individual, you are now thoroughly impressed
with the duty of attending to the welfare of your dependants; I proceed
to make some general reflections which may aid you in your outset, or
sustain you in the progress, of your endeavours.

                                * * * * *

And, first, let me implore you not to delay that outset.  Make a
beginning at once, at least in investigating the matters to which I have
striven to draw your attention.  It is no curious work of art that you
have to take up; it requires no nicety of apprehension; you can hardly
begin wrongly, I do not say in action, but in the preparation for action.
However little of each day you may be able to call your own for this
purpose, it is better to begin with that little than to wait for some
signal time of leisure.  Routine encumbers us; our days are frittered
away by most minute employments that we cannot control; and, when spare
moments do occur, we are mostly unprepared with any pursuits of our own
to go on with.  Hence it is, that the most obvious evils go on,
generation after generation, people not having time, as they would say,
to interfere.  Men are for ever putting off the concerns which should be
dearest to them to a “more convenient season,” when, as they hope, there
may be fewer trifles to distract their attention: but a great work, which
is to commence in the heart, requires not to have the first stone laid
for it, with pomp, upon some holiday.  It. is good to have made a
beginning upon it at any time.

The wisdom, or the folly, of delay is in most instances like that of a
traveller coming to a stream, and wishing to ford it, yet continuing his
journey along its banks: and whether this is wise, or not, depends mainly
on the simple fact, of whether he is walking up to the source, or down to
the fall.  The latter is apt to be the direction in the case of our
generous resolves: their difficulty widens as I we delay to act upon

                                * * * * *

Throughout the progress of your work, there is nothing that you will have
more frequently to be mindful of than your views with respect to
self-advancement.  To take one form of it, the acquisition of money.
Money, as Charles Lamb, a great despiser of cant, observed, is not dross,
but books, pictures, wines, and many pleasant things.  Still I suspect
that money is more sought after to gratify vanity, than to possess the
means of enjoying any of the above named pleasant things.  Money is so
much desired, because it is a measure of success; so much regretted,
because we fancy the loss of it leaves us powerless and contemptible.
That kind of satire, therefore, which delights to dwell upon the general
subserviency to wealth is not likely to make men less desirous of riches.
But a man would be likely to estimate more reasonably the possession of
money and of all kinds of self-advancement, if he did but perceive, that
even a man’s worldly success is not to be measured by his success for
himself alone, but by the result of his endeavours for the great family
of man.

There is a source of contemplation which nature affords us, one, too,
that is open to the dweller in crowded cities as well as to the shepherd
on Salisbury plain, and which might sometimes suggest the foolishness of
an inordinate love of money.  Consider the prospect which each unveiled
night affords us, telling of wonders such as we have hardly the units of
measurement to estimate; and then think how strange it is that we should
ever allow our petty personal possessions of to-day to render us blind to
the duties, which, alone, are the great realities of life.  There was
some excuse, perhaps, for the men of olden time, who looked upon this
earth, the birth-place of their gods, as no mean territory.  That they
should dote upon terrestrial things was not to be wondered at.  But what
is to be said for us who know that this small planet is but a speck, as
it were, from which we look out upon the profusion of immensity.  To
think that a man, who knows this, should nevertheless not hesitate to
soil his soul, lying here, cringing there, pursuing tortuous schemes of
most corrupt policy; or that he should ever suffer himself to be
immersed, innocently, if it may be so, in selfish, worldly pursuits,
forgetful of all else; when, at the best, it is but to win some acres of
this transitory earth, or to be noted as one who has been successful for
himself.  The folly of the gambling savage, who stakes his liberty
against a handful of cowrie shells is nothing to it.

                                * * * * *

Perhaps the next thing that is likely to divert you from useful
endeavours for the benefit of others is fear of criticism: you do not
know what the world will say: indeed, they may pronounce you an
enthusiast, which word, of itself, is an icy blast of ridicule to a timid
mind.  You shudder at doing anything unusual, and even hear by
anticipation the laugh of your particular friends.  You are especially
ashamed at appearing to care for what those about you do not care for.  A
laugh at your humanity, or your “theories,” would disconcert you.  You
are fearfully anxious that any project of benevolence you undertake
should succeed, not altogether on its own account, but because your
sagacity is embarked in it, and plentiful will be the gibes at its
failure, if it should fail.  Put these fears aside.  All that is
prominent, all that acts, must lay itself open to shallow criticism.  It
has been said that in no case of old age, however extreme, has the
faculty for giving advice been known to decay; depend upon it, that of
criticism flourishes in the most indolent, the most feeble, the most
doting minds.  Let not the wheels of your endeavour be stayed by
accumulated rubbish of this kind.  We are afraid of responsibility,
afraid of what people may say of us, afraid of being alone in doing
right: in short, the courage which is allied to no passion—Christian
courage as it may be called—is in all ages and amongst all people, one of
the rarest possessions.

The fear of ridicule is the effeminacy of the soul.

Great enterprises—and for you this attempt to make your working men
happier is a great enterprise—great enterprises demand an habitual
self-sacrifice in little things: and, hard as it may be to keep fully in
mind the enterprise itself, it is often harder still to maintain a just
sense of the connection between it and these said trifling points of
conduct, which, perhaps, in any single instance, seem so slightly and so
remotely connected with it.  But remember it is not always over great
impediments that men are liable to stumble most fatally.

                                * * * * *

You must not expect immediate and obvious gratitude to crown your
exertions.  The benevolence that has not duty for its stem, but merely
springs from some affectionateness of nature, must often languish, I
fear, when it comes to count up its returns in the way of grateful
affection from those whom it has toiled for.  And yet the fault is often
as much in the impatience and unreasonable expectation of the
benefactors, as in any ingratitude on the part of the persons benefited.
If you must look for gratitude, at any rate consider whether your
exertions are likely to be fully understood at present by those whom you
have served; and whether it is not a reversion, rather than an immediate
return, that you should look for—a reversion, too, in many cases to be
realized only on the death of the benefactor.  Moreover, it is useless
and unreasonable to expect that any motives of gratitude will uniformly
modify for you the peculiar tempers and dispositions of those whom you
have served.  Your benefits did not represent a permanent state of mind:
neither will their gratitude.  The sense of obligation, even in most
faithful hearts, is often dormant; but evil tempers answer quickly to the
lightest summons.

                                * * * * *

In all your projects for the good of others, beware lest your benevolence
should have too much of a spirit of interference.  Consider what it is
you want to produce.  Not an outward, passive, conformity to your wishes,
but something vital which shall generate the feelings and habits you long
to see manifested.  You can clip a tree into any form you please, but if
you wish it to bear fruit when it has been barren, you must attend to
what is beneath the surface, you must feed the roots.  You must furnish
it with that nutriment, you must supply it with those opportunities of
sunshine, which will enable it to use its own energies.  See how the
general course of the world is governed.  How slowly are those great
improvements matured which our impatient nature might expect to have been
effected at a single stroke.  What tyrannies have been under the sun,
things which we can hardly read of without longing for some direct divine
interference to have taken place.  Indeed, if other testimony were
wanting, the cruelties permitted on earth present an awful idea of the
general freedom of action entrusted to mankind.  And can you think that
it is left for you to drill men suddenly into your notions, or to produce
moral ends by mere mechanical means?  You will avoid much of this foolish
spirit if you are really unselfish in your purposes; if, in dealing with
those whom you would benefit, you refer your operations to them as the
centre, and not to yourself, and the successes of your plans.  There is a
noble passage in the history of the first great Douglas, the “good Lord
James,” who, just before the battle of Bannockburn, seeing Randolph, his
rival in arms, with a small body of men, contending against a much
superior English force, rushed to his aid.  “The little body of
Randolph,” says Sir Walter Scott, “was seen emerging like a rock in the
waves, from which the English cavalry were retreating on every side with
broken ranks, like a repelled tide.  ‘Hold and halt!’ said the Douglas to
his followers; ‘we are come too late to aid them; let us not lessen the
victory they have won by affecting to claim a share in it.’”  It is the
self-denying nature of this chivalrous deed that I would apply to far
other circumstances.  The interfering spirit, which I deprecate, would
come, not to consummate the victory, but to hinder it.

For similar reasons I would have you take care that you do not adopt mere
rules, and seek to impress them rigidly upon others, as if they were
general principles, which must at once be suitable to all mankind.  Do
not imagine that your individual threads of experience form a woven
garment of prudence, capable of fitting with exactness any member of the
whole human family.

                                * * * * *

There are several ungenerous motives, of some subtlety, which hide in the
dark corners of the heart, and stand in the way of benevolence.  For
instance, even in good minds, there is apt to lurk some tinge of fear, or
of dislike, at the prospect of an undoubted amelioration of the lot of
others coming too fast, as these good people would say.  Indeed, some
persons find it hard to reconcile themselves to the idea of others’
burdens being readily removed, even when they themselves are making
exertions to remove them.

Another feeling to beware of, is that of envy, which, strange as it
seems, may sometimes arise upon the view of that very prosperity, which
the person, feeling envy, has helped to create.  The truth is, it is
comparatively easy to avoid being envious of the good fortune which was
established before our time, or which is out of our own sphere: but to be
quite pleased with the good fortune of those whom we recollect in other
circumstances, and who, perhaps, have been accustomed to ask advice or
assistance from us—that is the trial.

Another ungenerous sentiment, similar to the foregoing, and likely at
times to prove a hindrance to benevolent exertion, arises from the
comparison of our own past lot with that of the persons whose condition
is sought to be improved.  Most of us have a little tendency to grudge
them this amelioration.  We should shudder at the brutality of one, who,
having attained to power, is more cruel because he has suffered much
himself, (“_eo immitior quia toleraverat_”); but are we not of a like
spirit, if any dissatisfaction steals over our minds at seeing others
exempt from those sufferings, which in our own career fell heavily upon
us.  It is difficult to dislodge this kind of selfishness from the heart.
Indeed, there can hardly be a surer symptom of sound benevolence in a
man, than his taking pleasure in those paths being smoothened which he
will never have to traverse again: I do not say in making them
smoother—it is much easier to reconcile himself to that—but in their
being made so without his interference.

It would be well, indeed, if selfishness came into play on those
occasions only where self is really concerned.

                                * * * * *

There is nothing which a wise employer will have more at heart than to
gain the confidence of those under him.  The essential requisites on his
part are truth and kindness.  These qualities may, however, belong in a
high degree to persons who fail to gain the confidence of their
dependents.  In domestic life, confidence may be prevented by fits of
capricious passion on the part of the ruling powers; and a man who, in
all important matters, acts justly and kindly towards his family, may be
deprived of their confidence by his weakness of temper in little things.
For instance, you meet with persons who fall into a violent way of
talking about all that offends them in their dependents; and who express
themselves with as much anger about trivial inadvertencies as about
serious moral offences.  In the course of the same day that they have
given way to some outbreak of temper, they may act with great self-denial
and watchful kindness; but they can hardly expect their subordinates to
be at ease with them.  Another defect which prevents confidence, is a
certain sterility of character, which does not allow of sympathy with
other people’s fancies and pursuits.  A man of this character does not
understand any likings but his own.  He will be kind to you, if you will
be happy in his way; but he has nothing but ridicule or coldness for any
thing which does not suit him.  This imperfection of sympathy, which
prevents an equal from becoming a friend, may easily make a superior into
a despot.  Indeed, I almost doubt whether the head of a family does not
do more mischief if he is unsympathetic, than even if he were unjust.
The triumph of domestic rule is for the master’s presence not to be felt
as a restraint.

In a larger sphere than the domestic one, such as amongst the employers
of labour and their men, the same elements are required on the part of
the masters to produce confidence.  Much frankness also and decisiveness
are required.  The more uneducated people are, the more suspicious they
are likely to be: and the best way of meeting this suspiciousness is to
have as few concealments as possible; for instance, not to omit stating
any motives relating to your own interest as master, which may influence
your conduct towards your men.

There is a class of persons brought into contact with the employers of
labour and their men, who might often do good service to both, by
endeavouring, when it is deserved, to inspire the men with confidence in
the kindly intentions of their masters.  This is a duty which belongs to
the clergy and professional men in manufacturing towns.  There are many
things which a man cannot say for himself; and, as Bacon has observed, it
is one of the advantages of friendship, that it provides some person to
say these things for one.  So, in this case, it must often have a very
good effect, when a bystander, as it were, explains to the men the kind
wishes and endeavours of a master manufacturer, which explanation would
come with much less force and grace from the master himself.

I now come to a subject bordering on the former, namely, the political
confidence of the operatives.  I am afraid, that, at present, there is a
great distrust amongst them of public men.  This is not to be wondered
at.  Their distrust is much fostered by the practice of imputing bad
motives, and calling ill names, so much the fashion in political writing
of all kinds.  It is not a vice peculiar to this age: indeed, I question
whether political writing has ever, upon the whole, been more well-bred
and considerate than it is now.  But at all times the abusive style is
the easiest mode of writing, and the surest of sympathy.  The skill to
make, and that to cure, a wound are different things; but the former is
the one which belongs to most people, and often attracts most attention
and encouragement.  This, then, is one cause of the distrust of the
working classes, which will only be mitigated by a higher tone of moral
feeling on the part of the people generally.  Another cause is to be
found in the unwise, if not dishonest, conduct of public men.  Look at
the mode of proceeding at elections.  I put aside bribery, intimidation,
and the like, the wrongfulness of which I hope we are all agreed upon;
and I come to the intellectual part of the business.  Extreme opinions
are put forth by the candidates, often in violent and injurious language.
Each strives to keep studiously in the background any points of
difference between himself and the electing body.  Electors are not
treated as rational beings; their prejudices and their antipathies are
petted as if they belonged to some despot whom it was treason to
contradict.  Whereas, if ever there is a time in his life when a man
should weigh his words well, and when he should gird himself up to speak
with truth and courage, it is when he is soliciting the suffrages of an
electoral body.  That is the way to anticipate inconsistency; the crime
of which is more often in the hastiness of the first-formed opinion, than
in the change from it.  What is called the inconsistency, may be the
redeeming part of the transaction.  The candidate is naturally tempted to
fall in with the exact opinions that are likely to ensure success, and to
express them without modification—in fact, for the sake of his present
purpose, to leave as little room for the exercise of his discretion as
possible.  It is easy for him to make unconditional assertions, when
nothing is to be done upon them, but it is another thing when he has to
bring them into action.  The direction which he may wish to give to
public affairs is likely to be met by many other impulses; and then he
may have to remain consistent and useless, or to link himself to some
friendly impulse which brings him, however, into opposition to some of
his former broad and careless declarations.  He has left himself no room
for using his judgment.  Indeed, one does not see very clearly why he
takes his seat amongst men who are met to deliberate.  The evils that
must arise from rash promises at elections are so great, that it is
fortunate when the topics mooted on those occasions, form but a small
part of those which ultimately come under the consideration of the person
elected; and, as often happens, that important public matters come to be
discussed, which were not seen on the political horizon at the election

In addition to the distrust of individual legislators, which is,
probably, frequent amongst the poorer classes, there is also, I suspect,
a great distrust amongst them of the leading parties in the state.  They
perceive the evils of party, and see nothing on the other side.  The
meaning and intent of party, the way in which by its means social good is
often worked out in a manner less harsh and abrupt, perhaps, than by any
other means that has hitherto been devised, are considerations probably
unknown to them.  To address them upon such matters would be thought
absurd.  It would be said, that philosophical disquisitions on government
are for the closet of the studious man, but not for common people coming
to perform a plain, practical, duty.  Great principles, however, are at
the foundation of all good action.  Look to the divine teaching.  See how
the highest things are addressed to all classes.  There is no esoteric
philosophy there—one thing to the initiated, and another to the outer
populace.  And so I am persuaded in addressing the great masses of
mankind on other subjects, you can hardly be too profound, if you
contrive to express yourself without pedantry; you can hardly put motives
of too much generosity before them, if you do so with complete sincerity
and earnestness.  All this is very difficult, but what social remedies
are not?  They are things to be toiled and bled for; and what is far
more, you must run the risk of ridicule, endure want of sympathy, have
the courage to utter unpalatable truths, and not unfrequently resist the
temptation of saying such things as are sure to elicit immediate and
hearty approbation.  When a statesman has a craving for present applause,
it is an evil spirit always by his side, but which springs up to its
utmost height, and overshadows him with its most baneful influence, at
some of the most critical periods of his career.

But, in addition to the want of confidence in public men caused by
malicious writing, or by their injudicious or dishonest conduct as
candidates, or by the ignorance amongst the operatives of the good uses
of party; is there not also a just want of confidence arising from the
mode in which party warfare has sometimes been carried on in the
legislative body?  Remember that it is possible to intrigue with
“interests,” as we call them, as well as with private persons.  The nice
morality which would shudder at the revelations of petty intrigue
disclosed by the diary of a Bubb Doddington, may urge on, and ride
triumphantly, some popular cry, the justice of which it has never paused
to examine.  There are also such things as a factious opposition to the
Government, a selfish desertion from it, or a slavish obedience to it;
which things, the people in general, are not slow to note, and often
prone to attribute, even when there is no sufficient cause for
attributing them.  But of all the things which tend to separate the
operatives from the governing classes, the most effectual, perhaps, is
the suspicion (oh, that we could say that it was altogether an unjust
one!) that laws are framed, or maintained, which benefit those classes at
the expense of their poorer brethren.  We think it a marvellous act of
malversation in a trustee, to benefit himself unjustly out of the funds
entrusted to his care.  Wrongs of this kind may appear to be diluted when
the national prosperity is the trust-fund, and the legislative body is
the trustee.  The largeness, however, of the transaction, does not
diminish the injustice of it, although it may soothe the conscience, or
partially excuse the conduct of any individual member of the governing
class.  By governing class, I do not merely mean the legislative bodies,
but I include the electing body, who are of course equally guilty when
they clamour for what they deem their own peculiar interest, instead of
calling for just laws.  And they may be sure, that when once the great
mass of the people are persuaded that the injustice which I have spoken
of, is a ruling principle in any government; that government, if it
lives, is henceforth based upon fear, and not upon affection.

                                * * * * *

I shall now put down a few points of practice, which, though they are
classed together, have no other link than that they all relate to our
conduct in a family and towards dependents.

                                * * * * *

In social government, no less than in legislating for a state, there
should be constant reference to great principles, if only from the
exceeding difficulty of foreseeing, or appreciating, the results in
detail of any measure.

                                * * * * *

It is a foolish thing when a man so guides himself, that it is generally
supposed in his family, and among his dependents, that no arguments of
theirs are likely to persuade him to alter his views.  Such a one may
fancy that what he calls his firmness is the main stay of his authority:
but the obstinacy, which never listens, is not less fatal than the
facility which never listens but to yield.  If your rule has the
reputation of not being amenable to reason, it is liable to sudden
convulsions and headstrong distempers, or to unreasonable cringings, in
which your welfare, and that of those whom you rule, are sacrificed to
the apprehension of provoking your self-will.  Moreover, the fear of
irrational opposition on your part, often tempts those about you into
taking up courses, which, otherwise, they might have thrown aside upon
reflection, or after reasonable converse with you on the subject.  You
may have, in the end, to oppose yourself sternly to the wishes of those
whom you would guide wisely; but at any rate give yourself the chance of
having, in the first instance, the full effect of any forces in their own
minds which may be on your side.  You cannot expect to have these useful
allies, if your wont is to be blindly obstinate, and to carry things, on
all occasions, by heavy-handed authority.  The way in which expected
opposition acts in determining the mind, is not always by creating
immediate wilfulness: but a man, knowing that there is sure to be
objection made, in any particular quarter, to his taking a course,
respecting which he has not made up his own mind, sets to work to put
aside that contingent obstacle to his freedom of action.  In doing this,
however, he generates, as it were, a force in the opposite direction: in
arguing against contingent opposition, he is led to make assertions which
he is ashamed to draw back from; and so, in the end, he fails to exercise
an unbiassed judgment.  I have gone minutely into this matter; but it
cannot be unimportant for those who rule, to consider well the latent
sources of human motive.

                                * * * * *

In addressing persons of inferior station, do not be prone to suppose
that there is much occasion for intellectual condescension on your part:
at any rate do not be careless in what you say, as if any thing would do
for them.  Observe the almost infinite fleetness of your own powers of
thought, and then consider whether it is likely that education has much
to do with this.  Use simple language, but do not fear to put substance
in it: choose, if you like, common materials, but make the best structure
that you can of them: and be assured that method and logical order are
not thrown away upon any one.  The rudest audience, as well as the most
refined, soon grows weary, I suspect, of protracted, driftless,

                                * * * * *

Do not dwell more than you can help, upon the differences of nature
between yourself and those with whom you live.  Consider whether your own
vanity is not too requiring.  See that others have not the same complaint
to make of your uncongeniality, that you are, perhaps, prone to make of
theirs.  If you are, indeed, superior, reckon it as your constant duty,
to try and sympathize with those beneath you; to mix with their pursuits,
as far as you can, and thus, insensibly, to elevate them.  Perhaps there
is no mind that will not yield some return for your labour: it seems the
dullest, bleakest, rock, not earth enough to feed a nettle; yet up grows,
with culture, the majestic pine.

A want of sympathy leads to the greatest ignorance in the intellect as
well as in the heart.

                                * * * * *

Remember that your dependents have seldom a full power of replying to
you; and let the recollection of that make you especially considerate in
your dealings with them.

                                * * * * *

When you find a lack of truth in those about you, consider whether it may
not arise from the furiousness of your own temper which scares truth away
from you: and reflect how fearful a part the angry man may have in the
sin of those falsehoods which immoderate fear of him gives rise to.
Such, I am afraid, is the tyrannous nature of the human heart that we not
only show, but really feel, more anger at offence given us by those under
our power, than at any other cause whatever.

                                * * * * *

It is a mistake to suppose that we necessarily become indifferent to the
faults and foibles of those with whom we live: on the contrary, we
sometimes grow more and more alive to them: they seem, as it were, to
create a corresponding soreness in ourselves: and, knowing that they
exist in the character, we are apt to fancy that we perceive them even on
occasions when they are not in the least brought into play.

                                * * * * *

Do not be fond of the display of authority, or think that there is
anything grand in being obeyed with abject fear.  One certainly meets
with persons who are vain of their ill-temper, and of seeing how it keeps
the people about them in order; a species of vanity which they might
share with any wild animal at large.

                                * * * * *

In reasoning with your dependants, do not allow yourself to make broad
assertions and careless conclusions, merely because you are addressing
inferiors.  “The Courts of Reason recognise no difference of persons.”
And when you wish to disabuse the minds of those entrusted to your
guidance of any thing which you are convinced is erroneous, do not
attempt to do so by unmeasured condemnation.  It is seldom that a secure
answer is given to any theory, or system, except by one who exhausts, and
lays before you, the good in it.

                                * * * * *

Let not your forgiveness be of that kind which may almost be set down as

                                * * * * *

You must not always expect to hear a good explanation of a man’s reason
for his conduct.  In the first place, he does not carry such things about
with him in a producible shape; some of them he has probably forgotten,
although their influence may still remain strongly upon his mind; and
such as he does give, are likely to be those which he thinks will have
most weight with the person to whom he is speaking.

                                * * * * *

In giving way to selfish persons, remember that you cannot sacrifice
yourself alone.  Any relation in which you may be placed to them,
especially if you are the superior, is not a thing that concerns you
only; but is, as it were, a trust for society in general.

                                * * * * *

It is hard to judge about quarrels, for the points on which they openly
break out have often no more to do with the real grounds of difference
than the place of a battle with the cause of the war.  Many a quarrel,
after running for a long time under ground, gushes forth with a vehemence
which seems unaccountable; and it is difficult to divine what lands it
has passed through in its hidden course.  Any particular outbreak cannot
safely be taken as an index of the general conduct of the parties towards
each other.

                                * * * * *

Playfulness is a good means of softening social distances.  A stiff,
grave, man is always in danger of being feared too much.  On the other
hand, as the self-love of many people is suspicious in the extreme, you
must expect that your most innocent playfulness will often be mistaken
for ridicule.

                                * * * * *

It is a duty not to allow yourself to think of any living man, still less
to treat him, as if your hopes of his amendment were utterly dead and

                                * * * * *

You must not be much surprised at the ingratitude of those to whom you
have given nothing but money.

                                * * * * *

Once give your mind to suspicion, and there will be sure to be food
enough for it.  In the stillest night, the air is filled with sounds for
the wakeful ear that is resolved to listen.

                                * * * * *

A misproud man resolves to abide by the evil words which he has spoken in
anger.  This freezing of foam is wilfully unnatural; and turns a brief
madness into a settled insanity.

                                * * * * *

A man of any wisdom, in domestic authority, so far from making large
claims to the love of those whom he rules, and exacting all manner of
observance as his due, will often think with fear how unworthy he is of
the affection even of the dullest and least-gifted creature about him.

                                * * * * *

In commenting on any error of an agent or dependant, beware of making
your own vexation, and not the real offence, the measure of your blame.
This is a most frequent source of injustice, and one, moreover, which
tends to prevent anything like consistent training.

                                * * * * *

The poor, the humble, and your dependants, will often be afraid to ask
their due from you: be the more mindful of it yourself.

                                * * * * *

With what degree of satisfaction do you feel that you could meet those
persons in a future state over whom you have any influence now?  Your
heart’s answer to this question is somewhat of a test of your behaviour
towards them.

                                * * * * *

How ready we should often be to forgive those who are angry with us, if
we could only see how much of their anger arises from vexation with
themselves for having begun to be angry at all.

                                * * * * *

I am not sorry to introduce a maxim, like the above, which relates,
perhaps, rather more to dependants than to those in authority, and which
claims a place among precepts on social government, only as it may tend
to promote social harmony and peace.  I have not attempted, throughout,
to give any account of the duties of dependants, which, however, are
easily inferred as supplementary to the duties of masters.  It is not to
be supposed that any relation in life is one-sided, that kindness is to
be met by indifference, or that loyalty to those who lead us is not a
duty of the highest order.  But, fortunately, the proneness of men to
regard with favour those put in authority over them is very strong; and I
have but little fear of finding any large body of thoughtful and kind
masters suffering from permanent indifference, or ingratitude, on the
part of their dependants.

                                * * * * *

I cannot close the chapter better than by entreating those, who are
endeavouring to carry on any system of benevolence, to be very watchful
in the management of details, and to strengthen themselves against any
feelings of disgust and weariness which may encroach upon them, when
their undertaking has lost the attraction of novelty.  Details are like
the fibres at the root of a tree: without their aid the tree would have
but little hold against the wind: they are the channels for its
terrestrial nutriment; they are its ties to earth, its home and
birth-place; and, insignificant as they seem, it could live almost better
without light than without them.  Here it is that practical wisdom comes
in—that faculty, without which, the greatest gifts may serve to make a
noise and a flame, and nothing more.  It holds its object neither too
near, nor too far off; without exaggerating trifles, it can see that
small things may be essential to the successful application of great
principles; it is moderate in its expectations; does not imagine that all
men must be full of its projects; and holds its course with calmness,
with hope, and with humility.

You must not enter upon a career of usefulness without expecting
innumerable vexations and crosses to affect the details of any project or
system you may undertake.  And when the novelty of your purpose has
somewhat worn off, and you have to meet with the honest opposition of
other minds, as well as to contend against their vanity, their
selfishness, and their unreasonableness, it requires a high and full
source for your benevolence to flow from, if it would bear down these
annoyances.  Even when they cannot dry up the stream, or change its
current, if you are not watchful over yourself, they may make it flow
more feebly.  The very prospect of success is to some minds a great
temptation to make them slacken their efforts.  Throughout the course of
our pursuit, we are never, perhaps, so prone to be weary and to repine,
as when we begin to feel sure of ultimate success, but at the same time
to perceive, that a long and definite period must elapse before the
completion of our undertaking.

Against the many temptations that beset a man in such a career, I do not
believe that any good feeling, which stands upon no other than mere human
relations, will be found a sufficient support.  No sentimental
benevolence will do; nor even, at all times, a warm and earnest
philanthropy: there must be the inexorable sense of duty arising from a
man’s apprehension, if but in a feeble degree, of his relation towards
God, as well as to his fellow man.


The two former chapters have been given to the consideration of the
relation between the employer of labour and the labouring man, and to
general reflections upon the duties arising from that relation.  Let us
now take a particular instance, the employment of labour in manufactures
for example, and go through some of the more obvious points to which the
master might in that case direct his attention beneficially.


It would seem an obvious thing enough, that when a man collects a number
of his fellow-men together to work for him, it would be right to provide
a sufficient supply of air for them.  But this does not appear to have
been considered as an axiom; and, in truth, we cannot much wonder at this
neglect, when we find that those who have to provide for the amusement of
men, and who would be likely, therefore to consult the health and
convenience of those whom they bring together, should sedulously shut out
the pure air, as if they disliked letting anything in that did not pay
for admission.  In most grievances, the people aggrieved are very
sensible at the time of the evil they are undergoing; which is not,
however, the case with those who suffer from an impure atmosphere.  They
are, in general, almost unconscious of what they are enduring.  This
makes it the more desirable, in the case we are considering, that the
manufacturer himself, or the government, or the community at large,
should be alive to the mischief arising from want of ventilation in these
crowded assemblages of men, and to the absolute necessity of providing
remedies for it.

This will not be an inappropriate place for saying something about the
non-interference principle.  There is no doubt that interference has
often been most tyrannous and absurd, that our ancestors, for instance,
sometimes interfered only to insist upon impossibilities, and that we may
occasionally do the same.  But, on the other hand, the let-alone
principle proceeds upon the supposition, not only that every body knows
his own interest best, or if not, that his freedom of action is of more
importance than his acting wisely, which is often true; but it also goes
on to assume that every body knows and will take just care of the welfare
of others.  Push either principle to any great length; and you will find
yourself in the land of confusion and absurdity.  In truth, I should
seldom like to say anything about the wisdom, or the folly, of
interference, until I knew exactly what it was about, and how far you
intended to interfere.  It is one of those matters in which it is
especially desirable to keep in mind those maxims of prudence, respecting
the application of general rules to moral questions, which Burke has
handled so admirably.  “Nothing universal,” he observes, “can be
rationally affirmed on any moral, or any political subject.  Pure
metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters.  The lines of
morality are not like ideal lines of mathematicks.  They are broad and
deep as well as long.  They admit of exceptions; they demand
modifications.  These exceptions and modifications are not made by the
process of logic, but by the rules of prudence.  Prudence is not only the
first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the
director, the regulator, the standard of them all.”  To take a particular
instance of legislative interference, namely, the enactments about
building party-walls, can any one doubt that this interference has been
most beneficial?  Does any one suppose that, without it, the same good
results would have been gained?  Would the prudence of private
individuals ever have accomplished it?  Besides, I think it can hardly be
denied that a state should have a degree of providence for the general
body, not to be expected from private individuals, and which might compel
them to do things that would not consort with their interest even upon
the most enlarged views which they could take of it.  The financial
affairs of the nation are conducted with no slight apparatus of intrusion
and vexation.  We endure this patiently: indeed, in many cases, it is
difficult to see how it could be obviated.  Surely we may submit to some
simple sanitary regulations, especially of that kind which may be
compared to indirect taxation, requiring to be attended to only by a
certain class of persons of daily experience in the matter.  Such are
regulations with respect to building, which need to be looked to in the
first instance; and then the results of them remain for ever afterwards a
great gain to public health and morals.  I am speaking now rather of the
question of annoyance, than of loss, from legislative interference.  Of
course, in this matter of building, it is easy to perceive that limits
must carefully be put to the extent of interference with a view to
keeping down the expense.  If this is not done, the whole purpose of the
regulations may be defeated.  But even in this, it is possible to be too
nice with respect to interfering with what are called the rights of
property, or too much afraid of creating an artificial dearness by
regulations, many of which will in the end be found to be a great saving.

But to resume the subject of the Mill.  Each branch of manufactures has
its peculiar dangers and disadvantages; and it behoves the master to be
frequently directing his attention to remedy the peculiar evils of his
manufacture.  He is to be the pioneer to find out for his men ways of
avoiding these evils.  It cannot be his duty to study only how to make
his fabric cheaper, and not to take any pains to see how it can be made
to cost less of human life.  However, if a man has once got a just view
of his position as an employer of labour, he will not need to be urged in
this matter, but must see at once that the health of his men is one of
the first things for him to look to.  What would you think of a commander
who was careless of the health of his army, merely because he had an
indefinite power of recruiting?  In a thickly-peopled country like this,
an employer of labour, if his work does not require much skill, can
generally get any number of men to serve him, which would be a strange
reason, however, for making the health of anyone amongst those whom he
does employ less precious in his eyes.  Human labour may be ever so
abundant, but human life cannot be cheap.

While we are talking of the Mill, it may be well to observe that the
system of piecework, when it is done by a man with children under him, is
likely to be made too severe work for them.  It is a hard fate, indeed,
for children to be always under the eye of one whose interest it is to
get as much work out of them as possible.  The above remarks, however,
apply even more to piece-work done at home than at the mill.

The next thing to be mentioned in connexion with the Mill is the time of
labour.  This is a great question, embracing many considerations which it
would be quite foreign to my purpose to enter upon here.  But I may
observe that there is much in this matter which might be done by the
masters, individually, and collectively.  They have to consider how the
time that they may get for the recreation of their men is to be
apportioned.  For instance, whether it is better to give it in whole
days, or by half-days, or to spread it over the ordinary days of work.
These are questions that cannot be answered without much thought and
knowledge respecting the social habits of the labouring people.

All that we have addressed to the manufacturer on the subject of his
Mill, applies even more cogently to the minor superintendent of labour
and his workshop.  There, the evils complained of are often far greater.
Ventilation is less attended to; less pains are taken to diminish the
peculiar dangers of the craft; the hours of labour are more numerous; and
the children sometimes exposed to cruelties utterly unheard of in
factories.  Read the evidence respecting the employment of milliners, and
you will wish that dresses could be made up, as well as the materials
made for them, in factories.  Alas! what a striking instance the
treatment of these poor milliner girls is of the neglect of duty on the
part of employers: I mean of those who immediately superintend this
branch of labour, and of those who cause it.  Had the former been the
least aware of their responsibility, would they have hesitated to
remonstrate against the unreasonable orders of their customers?  And, as
for the latter, for the ladies who expect such orders to be complied
with, how sublimely inconsiderate of the comfort of those beneath them
they must have become.  I repeat it again: the careless cruelty in the
world almost outweighs the rest.


Some manufacturer may think that this branch of the matter does not
belong to him, as he does not employ children of the age which makes it
incumbent upon him by law to have anything to do with their schooling.
But I would venture to suggest that it is a matter which belongs to all
of us, and, especially, to those who are able to pay attention to the
habits of large masses of people, put, as it were, under their care.
Suppose that there had been no such thing in the world’s history as a
decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  In the course of time, though we
should probably have had our Domitians and our Neros, we might have
delighted in a modern Trajan or an Antonine.  Under such a man, the
progress of letters, having proceeded in any thing like the manner that
it has done, we should have had some general system of national
education, which, after the Roman fashion of completeness, would have
traversed the state, with iron step, doubtless even to the remote ends of
barbarian Britain.  To say that this would not have been a signal benefit
to mankind would be idle: what we have to say against the despotic system
is, that it absorbs private virtue, and suppresses private endeavour;
that though it may create better machines, it certainly makes worse men.
Now then to bring these imaginings home; for they do concern us closely.
My readers are, to a certain extent, educated; they will have gained by
living in a free state; but if they continue to neglect the welfare of
the great mass, in respect of education, can they say that this, the
first layer of the nation, the “turba Remi,” might not almost wish, if
they could comprehend the question, to live under a despot who would
educate them, rather than with free men who do not?  Are we to enjoy the
singular freedom of speech and action, which we do enjoy in this country,
and to expect to have no sacrifice to make for it?  Is liberty, the first
of possessions, to have no duties corresponding to its invaluable rights?
And, in fine, ought it not to be some drawback on the enjoyment of our
own freedom, if a doubt can come across our minds whether a vast mass of
our fellow citizens might not be the better for living under a despotic
government?  These are very serious questions; and the sooner we are
able, with a good conscience, to give a satisfactory answer to them, the
better.  Till that time, let no man in this country say that the
education of the people is nothing to him.

But how strange it is that men should require to be urged to this good
work of education.  The causing children to be taught is a thing so full
of joy, of love, of hope, that one wonders how such a gladsome path of
benevolence could ever have been unfrequented.  The delight of educating
is like that of cultivating near the fruitful Nile, where seed time and
harvest come so close together.  And when one looks forward to the
indefinite extension that any efforts in this direction may probably
enjoy, one is apt to feel as if nothing else were important, and to be
inclined to expend all one’s energies in this one course.  Indeed, it is
hard to estimate the enormous benefit of enabling a man to commune with
the most exalted minds of all time, to read the most significant records
of all ages, to find that others have felt and seen and suffered as
himself, to extend his sympathy with his brother-man, his insight into
nature, his knowledge of the ways of God.  Now the above is but a poor
description of what the humblest education offers.

Let us now consider the subject of “the school-room” more in detail.
And, the first remark I have to make, is, that we should perpetually
recal to mind the nature of our own thoughts, and sensations, at the
early periods of life in which those are whom we are trying to educate.
This will make us careful not to weary children with those things which
we long to impress most upon them.  The repetition of words, whatever
they may contain, is often like the succession of waves in a receding
tide, which makes less of an inroad at each pulsation.  It is different
when an idea, or state of feeling, is repeated by conduct of various
kinds: that is most impressive.  If a child, for instance, is brought up
where there is a pervading idea of any kind, manifested as it will be in
many ways, the idea is introduced again and again without wearisomeness,
and the child imbibes it unconsciously.  But mere maxims, embracing this
idea, would very likely have gained no additional influence with him from
being constantly repeated: that is, at the time; for, in after years, the
maxims may, perhaps, fasten upon his mind with a peculiar strength,
simply from their having been often repeated to him at an early period of
his life.  But at present this repetition may be of immense disservice.
You cannot continue to produce the same effect by words, that you did on
first using them; and often you go on hammering about a thing until you
loosen what was fast in the first instance.  It is well to keep such
reflections steadily in mind as regards religious instruction for the
young, and, especially, as regards religious services for them.  Go back
to your own youth, and recollect how little command of attention you had
yourself, how volatile you were, how anxious to escape all tedium, how
weary of words, how apt to dislike routine.  Then see whether you make
sufficient allowance for these feelings in dealing with the young; and
whether it might not be possible to give them the same holy precepts, to
communicate the same extent, or nearly so, of religious instruction, and
yet to ensure their love for the times, and places, and circumstances, of
this communication.  You must allow that you do a very dangerous thing
indeed, when you make that wearisome which you wish to be most loved.  I
must confess that it has often struck me, that we insist upon too much
religious attendance from children of a tender age; and, considering what
we know of the impatience of the human mind, I cannot but think that such
a system is often most prejudicial.  I say these things with much
hesitation, and some fear of being misunderstood; and I do not venture to
enter into details, or to presume to say what should be the exact course
in so difficult a question.  What I wish, is to draw the attention of
those engaged in instruction to a point of view which may sometimes
escape them, or which they may be tempted to neglect for the sake of
appearances, the household gods of this generation.

                                * * * * *

There is one maxim which those who superintend schools should ponder
well; and that is, that the best things to be learnt are those which the
children cannot be examined upon.  One cannot but fear that the masters
will be apt to think school-proficiency all in all; and that the founders
and supporters of schools will, occasionally, be tempted by vanity to
take most interest in those things which give most opportunity for
display.  Yet the slightest inferiority of moral tone in a school would
be ill compensated for by an expertness, almost marvellous, in dealing
with figures; or a knowledge of names, things, and places, which may well
confound the grown-up bystander.  That school would in reality be the one
to be proud of, where order was thoroughly maintained with the least
admixture of fear; where you would have most chance of meeting with
truthful replies from the children in a matter where such replies would
criminate themselves: and where you would find the most kindly feeling to
each other prevalent throughout.  Yet these are things not to be seen on
show days, that cannot be got up for exhibition, that require unwearied
supervision on the part of masters and benefactors, that will never be
attempted but by those who, themselves, feel deeply the superiority of
moral excellence to all else.  Such teachers will see how the kindness of
children to each other may be encouraged.  They will take more notice of
a good-natured thing than a clever one.  They will show, how much, even
in the minutest trifles, truth and fortitude weigh with them.  They will
be careful not to stimulate an unwholesome craving for praise in their
pupils.  They will look not only to the thing done, but also to the mode
and spirit of doing it.  That this spirit and mode may be the means of
generating and guiding future endeavour will be a main object with such
instructors.  The dignity of labour, the independence of thrift, the
greatness of contentment, will be themes dwelt upon by them, in their
loving foresight for the future welfare of the infant labourers entrusted
to their care.  To endear holy things to these little ones would delight
such teachers far more than to instil the utmost proficiency in any
critical or historical knowledge of the sacred writings.  Not that the
two things are in the least degree incompatible.  Far from it, indeed!
All I mean to insist on is, that such teachers will perceive what are the
great objects of culture: and how subservient even the best knowledge is
to the apprehension of duty.  They will see, too, more clearly the
necessity of bearing in mind the pre-eminence of moral and religious
culture, when they reflect that many of their pupils come from places
which cannot be called homes, where scarcely anything like parental love
sustains or informs them, and where, perhaps, confusion, discontent, and
domestic turbulence prevail.

We may remark, as bearing upon this subject, that singing lessons should
be greatly encouraged in schools.  There are several merits connected
with this mode of instruction.  It employs many together, and gives a
feeling of communion; it is not much mixed up with emulation; the
tenderest and highest sentiments may be unostentatiously impressed by its
means, for you can introduce in songs such things as you could not
lecture upon; then it gives somewhat of a cultivated taste, and an
additional topic of social interest, even to those who do not make much
proficiency; while to others, who have a natural ability for it, it may
form an innocent and engaging pursuit throughout their lives.

With respect to the intellectual part of teaching, I have not much to
say: and it is a branch of the subject which has engaged, and is
engaging, the attention of men who are much more capable of speaking
about it than I am.  The only thing which it occurs to me to mention is,
that one would like to see a great deal of manual teaching, with a view
not only to the future profit, but also to the future pleasure and
instruction of the children.  When you think that many of them will be
artisans, whose only occupation, perhaps, will be to perform some one
process of manufactures, requiring next to no thought or skill, it
becomes the more necessary to educate their hands as well as their heads.
Man is an animal very fond of construction of any sort; and a wise
teacher, knowing the happiness that flows from handiwork, will seize upon
opportunities for teaching even the most trivial accomplishments of a
manual kind.  They will come in, hereafter, to embellish a man’s home,
and to endear it to him.  They will occupy time that would, otherwise, be
ill spent.  And, besides, there are many persons whose cleverness lies
only in this way; and you have to teach them this or nothing.


This is a place quite as important as the school-room.  Here it is, that
a large part of the moral cultivation may be carried on.  It is a great
object to humanize the conduct of children to each other at play times
without interfering with them, or controlling them, too much.  But we
have, before, gone over the motives which should actuate a teacher in his
moral guidance; and it needs only to remark, that the playground is a
place where that guidance is eminently required; and where the exigencies
for it are most easily discerned.

Those games should not be overlooked which are of a manly kind, and
likely to be continued in after life.  This brings us naturally to think
of the playgrounds for children of a larger growth.  Hitherto there has
been a sad deficiency in this matter in our manufacturing towns, and
almost everywhere else.  Can any thing be more lamentable to contemplate
than a dull, grim, and vicious population, whose only amusement is
sensuality?  Yet, what can we expect, if we provide no means whatever of
recreation; if we never share our own pleasures with our poorer brethren;
and if the public buildings which invite them in their brief hours of
leisure are chiefly gin palaces?  As for our cathedrals and great
churches, we mostly have them well locked up, for fear any one should
steal in and say a prayer, or contemplate a noble work of art, without
paying for it: and we shut people up by thousands in dense towns with no
outlets to the country, but those which are guarded on each side by dusty
hedges.  Now an open space near a town is one of nature’s churches: and
it is an imperative duty to provide such things.  Nor, indeed, should we
stop at giving breathing places to crowded multitudes in great towns.  To
provide cheap locomotion, as a means of social improvement, should be
ever in the minds of legislators and other influential persons.  Blunders
in legislating about railroads, and absurd expenditure in making them,
are a far greater public detriment than they may seem at first sight.
Again, without interfering too much, or attempting to force a “Book of
Sports” upon the people, who in that case, would be resolutely dull and
lugubrious, the benevolent employer of labour might exert himself in many
ways to encourage healthful and instructive amusements amongst his men.
He might give prizes for athletic excellence or skill.  He might aid in
establishing zoological gardens, or music-meetings, or exhibitions of
pictures, or mechanics’ institutes.  These are things in which some of
the great employers of labour have already set him the example.  Let him
remember how much his workpeople are deprived of by being almost confined
to one spot; and let him be the more anxious to enlarge their minds by
inducing them to take interest in any thing which may prevent the
“ignorant present,” and its low cares, from absorbing all their
attention.  He has very likely some pursuit, or some art, in which he
takes especial pleasure himself, and which gives to his leisure, perhaps,
its greatest charm: he may be sure that there are many of his people who
could be made to share in some degree that pleasure, or pursuit, with
him.  It is a large, a sure, and certainly a most pleasurable
beneficence, to provide for the poor such opportunities of recreation, or
means of amusement, as I have mentioned above.  Neither can it be set
down as at all a trifling matter.  Depend upon it, that man has not made
any great progress in humanity who does not care for the leisure hours
and amusements of his fellow-men.

While we are upon this matter, I will mention something which borders
closely upon it, though it applies to the consumer rather than the
manufacturer.  Most men would think it much, if it were brought home to
them, that from any carelessness of theirs, some person had suffered
unnecessary imprisonment, if only for a day.  And yet any one, who
encourages unreasonably late hours of business, does what he can to
uphold a system of needless confinement, depriving thousands of that
healthful change of pursuit which is one of the main aliments both for
body and soul, and leaving little time or opportunity for any thing to
grow up in their minds beyond the rudest and most trivial cares and


That the workman should have a home, which, however humble it may be,
should yet afford room and scope for the decencies, if not for some of
the comforts and refinements of civilized life, is manifestly essential,
if we wish to preserve the great body of the people from a state of
savageness.  There is an important and original remark on this subject in
the Hand Loom Weavers Report of 1841:

    “The man who dines for 6d. and clothes himself during the year for
    £5. is probably as healthily fed, and as healthily clad, as if his
    dinner cost two guineas a day, and his dress £200 a year.  But this
    is not the case with respect to habitation.  Every increase of
    accommodation, from the corner of a cellar to a mansion, renders the
    dwelling more healthy, and, to a considerable extent, the size and
    goodness of the dwelling tends to render its inmates more civilized.”

Indeed, if civilization does not show itself in a man’s home, where else
is it likely to take much root with him?  Make his home comfortable, and
you do more towards making him a steady and careful citizen, than you
could by any other means.  Now only look around, and see how entirely
this has been neglected, at least, until within a recent date.  Our
workers are toiling all day long, or, if they have leisure, it is mostly
accompanied by pecuniary distress: and can you expect in either case that
they will busy themselves about those primary structural arrangements
without which it is scarcely possible to have a comfortable home?  Many
of the things, too, which are needful for this end, require capital, or,
at least, such conjoint enterprise as can hardly be expected from the
poor.  Take any individual workman.  Suppose there is defective drainage
in his street, or, as often happens, no drainage at all, what can one
such man do, even if at all alive to the evil?  When you consider the
dependent condition of the labouring classes, and how little time they
have for domestic arrangements of any kind, does it not behove the
employer of labour to endeavour that his workmen should have
opportunities of getting places to live in, fit for human beings in a
civilized country?  I use the phrase “employer of labour,” in its widest
sense; and at once say, that there are many things bearing upon the
comfort of the habitations of the poor, which both the local authorities
and the imperial government ought to look to.  Is there not a strange
mockery in the fact, stated in the Sanitary Report, that “the annual
slaughter in England and Wales from preventible causes of typhus which
attacks persons in the vigour of life, appears to be double the amount of
what was suffered by the allied armies in the battle of Waterloo?”  Must
we not say again that the careless cruelty of the world almost outweighs
the rest?

I have hitherto abstained from vexing my readers with details; nor do I
wish now to do more than draw their attention to a few extracts from
public documents respecting the habitations of the poor.  I take the
following from the Hand Loom Weavers’ Report in 1841.

    “The First Annual Report of the Registrar-General, showed for the
    year 1838 a variation of the annual mortality in different districts
    of the metropolis, amounting to 100 per cent.; a difference nearly
    equal to that which exists between the most healthy and the least
    healthy portions of the world.  The inquiries instituted at the same
    time by the Poor Law Commissioners into the physical causes of fever
    in the metropolis, have traced the comparative mortality of the
    unhealthy districts principally to the presence of impurities, the
    want of ventilation, and the bad construction of houses.

    “The following extracts from Dr. Southwood Smith’s Report on Bethnal
    Green and Whitechapel, show both the causes and the intensity of the

    ‘It appears,’ says Dr. Southwood Smith, ‘that in many parts of
    Bethnal Green and Whitechapel, fever of a malignant and fatal
    character is always more or less prevalent.  In some streets it has
    recently prevailed in almost every house; in some courts in every
    house; and in some few instances in every room in every house.  Cases
    are recorded in which every member of a family has been attacked in
    succession, of whom in every such case several have died; some whole
    families have been swept away.  Instances are detailed in which there
    have been found in one small room six persons lying ill of fever
    together; I have myself seen this, four in one bed, and two in

                                  * * * * *

    ‘The room of a fever patient in a small and heated apartment in
    London, with no perflation of fresh air, is perfectly analogous to a
    standing pool in Ethiopia full of bodies of dead locusts.  The poison
    generated in both cases is the same; the difference is merely in the
    degree of its potency.  Nature with her burning sun, her stilled and
    pent up wind, her stagnant and teeming marsh, manufactures plague on
    a large and fearful scale.  Poverty in her hut, covered with her
    rags, surrounded with her filth, striving with all her might to keep
    out the pure air and to increase the heat, imitates nature but too
    successfully: the process and the product are the same; the only
    difference is in the magnitude of the result.

    ‘But the magnitude of the result in London, if that magnitude be
    estimated by the numbers attacked, is not slight.  From returns
    received from the Bethnal Green and Whitechapel Unions it appears
    that during the last year there occurred of fever cases,

In the Bethnal Green Union       2,084

In the Whitechapel Union         2,557

                          Total  4,641

The state of things described above by Dr. Southwood Smith is by no means
confined to the metropolis; nor, even, is it to be seen in its worst form
there.  Mr. Chadwick says, “the most wretched of the stationary
population of which I have been able to obtain any account, or that I
have ever seen, was that which I saw in company with Dr. Arnott, and
others, in the wynds of Edinburgh and Glasgow.”  I forbear to add their
detailed report, which, as regards Glasgow especially, represents a
loathsome state of filth and wretchedness.  If we go now to the
manufacturing towns of England, the evidence is of a similar character.
“The following extract,” says the Sanitary Report, “is descriptive of the
condition of large classes of tenements in the manufacturing towns of
Lancashire.  It is from the report of Mr. Pearson, the medical officer of
the Wigan Union.”

    “From the few observations which I have been enabled to make
    respecting the causes of fever during the two months which I have
    held the situation of house-surgeon to the Dispensary, I am inclined
    to consider the filthy condition of the town as being the most
    prominent source.  Many of the streets are unpaved and almost covered
    with stagnant water, which lodges in numerous large holes which exist
    upon their surface, and into which the inhabitants throw all kinds of
    rejected animal and vegetable matters, which then undergo decay and
    emit the most poisonous exhalations.  These matters are often
    allowed, from the filthy habits of the inhabitants of these
    districts, many of whom, especially the poor Irish, are utterly
    regardless both of personal and domestic cleanliness, to accumulate
    to an immense extent, and thus become prolific sources of malaria,
    rendering the atmosphere an active poison.”

Dr. Edward Knight, speaking of some parts of the town of Stafford, says,

    “These parts of the town are without drainage, the houses, which are
    private property, are built without any regard to situation or
    ventilation, and constructed in a manner to ensure the greatest
    return at the least possible outlay.  The accommodation in them does
    not extend beyond two rooms; these are small, and, for the most part,
    the families work in the day-time in the same room in which they
    sleep, to save fuel.

    “There is not any provision made for refuse dirt, which, as the least
    trouble, is thrown down in front of the houses, and there left to

Mr. William Rayner, the medical officer of the Heaton Norris district of
the Stockport Union, thus describes a part of that town:

    “There are forty-four houses in the two rows, and twenty-two cellars,
    all of the same size.  The cellars are let off as separate dwellings;
    these are dark, damp, and very low, not more that six feet between
    the ceiling and floor.  The street between the two rows is seven
    yards wide, in the centre of which is the common gutter, or more
    properly sink, into which all sorts of refuse is thrown; it is a foot
    in depth.  Thus there is always a quantity of putrefying matter
    contaminating the air.  At the end of the rows is a pool of water
    very shallow and stagnant, and a few yards further, a part of the
    town’s gas works.  In many of these dwellings there are four persons
    in one bed.”

We might have hoped that country districts at least would have been free
from the evils occasioned by contracted building, want of ventilation,
want of drainage, and the like; but this is far indeed from being the
case.  The following is from the report of Mr. Aaron Little, the medical
officer of the Chippenham Union:

    “The parish of Colerne, which, upon a cursory view, any person
    (unacquainted with its peculiarities) would pronounce to be the most
    healthy village in England, is in fact the most unhealthy.  From its
    commanding position (being situated upon a high hill) it has an
    appearance of health and cheerfulness which delights the eye of the
    traveller, who commands a view of it from the Great Western road; but
    this impression is immediately removed on entering at any point of
    the town.  The filth, the dilapidated buildings, the squalid
    appearance of the majority of the lower orders, have a sickening
    effect upon the stranger who first visits this place.  During three
    years’ attendance on the poor of this district, I have never known
    the small pox, scarlatina, or the typhus fever to be absent.  The
    situation is damp, and the buildings unhealthy, and the inhabitants
    themselves inclined to be of dirty habits.  There is also a great
    want of drainage.”

Mr. John Fox, the medical officer of the Cerne Union, Dorsetshire, gives
the following evidence:

    “In many of the cottages, where synochus prevailed, the beds stood on
    the ground-floor, which was damp three parts of the year; scarcely
    one had a fire place in the bed-room, and one had a single small pane
    of glass stuck in the mud wall as its only window, with a large heap
    of wet and dirty potatoes in one corner.  Persons living in such
    cottages are generally very poor, very dirty, and usually in rags;
    living almost wholly on bread and potatoes, scarcely ever tasting
    animal food, and consequently highly susceptible of disease and very
    unable to contend with it.  I am quite sure if such persons were
    placed in good, comfortable, clean cottages, the improvement in
    themselves and children would soon be visible, and the exceptions
    would only be found in a few of the poorest and most wretched, who
    perhaps had been born in a mud hovel, and had lived in one the first
    thirty years of their lives.”

Mr. James Gane, the medical officer of the Uxbridge Union, says,

    “I attribute the prevalence of diseases of an epidemic character,
    which exists so much more among the poor than among the rich, to be,
    from the want of better accommodation as residence, (their dwellings
    instead of being built of solid materials are complete shells of mud
    on a spot of waste land the most swampy in the parish; this is to be
    met with almost everywhere in rural districts) to the want of better
    clothing, being better fed, more attention paid to the cleanliness of
    their dwellings, and less congregated together.”

Mr. Thomas H. Smith, the medical officer of the Bromley Union, states:

    “My attention was first directed to the sources of malaria in this
    district and neighbourhood when cholera became epidemic.  I then
    partially inspected the dwellings of the poor, and have recently
    completed the survey.  It is almost incredible that so many sources
    of malaria should exist in a rural district.  A total absence of all
    provisions for effectual drainage around cottages is the most
    prominent source of malaria; throughout the whole district there is
    scarcely an attempt at it.  The refuse vegetable and animal matters
    are also thrown by the cottagers in heaps near their dwellings to
    decompose; are sometimes not removed, except at very long intervals;
    and are always permitted to remain sufficiently long to accumulate in
    some quantity.  Pigsties are generally near the dwellings, and are
    always surrounded by decomposing matters.  These constitute some of
    the many sources of malaria, and peculiarly deserve attention as
    being easily remedied, and yet, as it were, cherished.  The effects
    of malaria are strikingly exemplified in parts of this district.
    There are localities from which fever is seldom long absent; and I
    find spots where the spasmodic cholera located itself are also the
    chosen resorts of continued fever.”

It appears from the Sanitary Report, from which I have made the above
extracts, and which was presented to Parliament in 1842, that there were
then 8000 inhabited cellars at Liverpool; and that the occupants were
estimated at from 35,000 to 40,000.  Liverpool is called a prosperous
town.  People point with admiration to its docks, and its warehouses, and
speak of its wealth and grandeur in high terms.  But such prosperity,
like the victory of Pyrrhus, is apt to suggest the idea of ruin.
Thirty-five thousand people living in cellars!  Surely such things as
these demonstrate the necessity there is for making great exertions to
provide fit habitations for the poor.  Each year there is required in
Great Britain, according to the Sanitary Report, an increase of 59,000
new tenements, “a number equal to that of two new towns such as
Manchester proper, which has 32,310 houses, and Birmingham, which has
27,268 houses.”  In these large increments of building, is it not
essential that there should be some care for the health and the morals of
the people?  Is it not a question which even in a selfish point of view
affects the whole empire?

                                * * * * *

I am aware that there are great difficulties in the way of any general
measure for regulating buildings.  The first difficulty which occurs, one
which, of itself, forms a limit to building regulations, is, that if you
carry them beyond a certain extent, the poorer classes are driven, by the
increased expense, from the occupation of cottages to that of rooms,
which would be anything but a gain.  Besides, it is obvious, on other
accounts, that any regulations with respect to building must be
introduced with great care, especially in an old country, and where the
buildings, which you would be most anxious to modify, are those which
will be erected in the immediate vicinity of ground already densely
covered with houses.  The Liverpool Improvement Act affords a curious
instance of, what appears to me, absurd and impatient legislation on the
subject of building.  By some of its provisions a certain description of
cellar in that town will be thrown out of occupation on a given day.
Now, where are the inhabitants of these cellars to go to?  You might as
well legislate that no food except of a certain quality should be sold;
but it does not seem likely that this would secure the maintenance of the
population so legislated upon.  Inconsiderate measures of this kind
occasionally put even wise interference out of countenance.  Still, I
must contend that much good may be done by some simple building
regulations of a sanitary nature.  Much may be done indirectly, all of
which is nearly sure to be good.  For instance, it is very desirable to
lower the taxation upon building materials.  Then, again, wherever the
window-tax can be modified, with a view to benefit the dwellings of the
poor, it should be done.  Mr. Biers, a witness examined before the Select
Committee in 1842 on Building Regulations, says,

    “The preamble of this Act (the Bill, I believe, then under
    consideration) sets out that it is for the purpose of preventing
    disease and giving better ventilation; now, it would much increase
    the advantages of poor people if a rider or addition was made to the
    17th section, for the purpose of giving a better ventilation without
    being liable to the tax-gatherer.  I have added to this section,
    ‘And, for the purpose of promoting health and better ventilation, it
    is provided, that all window-lights or casements, not being between
    the outside brick or stone reveals of greater dimensions than one
    foot wide and three feet high, shall not be assessed to the window
    duties, whether the same be glazed or not, provided the room or
    appurtenance is not used for a sleeping or dwelling apartment.’”

    _Viscount Sandon_.  This is not for inhabited cellars?  No, it is to
    promote the ventilation of any part that is not an inhabited room;
    larders and cellars and out-appurtenances of houses.  I used to put
    in the buildings I am now erecting what are termed lancet lights, for
    the ventilating the cellars, larders, &c.; and, previous to the late
    survey, these lancet lights were never taken; but so stringent were
    the orders from the tax-board on the late survey, that if they found
    a gimlet-hole they would take it.

    _Chairman_.  Were they glazed?—Yes.

    If they were not glazed, but made of wire, how would that be?—Then
    they can take them, unless the word ‘Dairy’ or ‘Cheese-room’ is
    written over them; I have now been obliged to reduce three of those
    lancet lights, and do not get the ventilation.  It is as much or more
    concern to the poor than it is to the rich, that they should have a
    proper ventilation; and there have been many windows stopped up
    (which ought not to have been taken) in consequence of the recent
    survey, and which I am sure the Legislature never intended should be

But, in addition to these indirect methods for improving buildings, it is
surely not beyond our legislative ability to devise some very simple
regulations, at least of that kind which are to have a prospective
application.  I do not like to speak confidently about the merits of the
Government Bill, introduced this session, because it requires so much
technical knowledge to judge of these matters; but the main provisions
for back-yards or open spaces attached to dwelling houses, and for the
areas to lowermost rooms, appear to me well considered.  This Bill
applies only to the metropolis.  The working, however, of local
improvement Acts may afford the best kind of evidence to prepare a
general measure upon.  When the subject was considered in Committee in
1842, the Corporation of London sent a witness who showed that if a
certain regulation, embodied in the Bill they were then considering, were
carried into effect, it would, in some instances, not only injure
property, but prevent improvement.  Partial objections of this nature,
which after all may be very slight things, often prevent most useful
measures from being carried.  But why should there not be a discretionary
power vested somewhere to relax any provision which, in particular cases,
might be found harsh or inapplicable?  This power might be given to a
central office, or to local boards of health.  Any suggestion of this
kind is liable to objections; and the truth is, that to introduce
sanitary provisions into a state of things not prepared for them, must at
first be a matter cumbered with difficulties; but, as Lord Lyndhurst has
said, “a difficulty is a thing to be overcome.”  Mr. Carlyle has pointed
out what a wonderful production a soldier is, still more a body of them,
and all the apparatus by which they are kept in working order.  And, as
he goes on to argue, governments could not exist if this human fighting
machine were not in good keeping, and, therefore, it is well cared for at
all times.  Now if governments did but perceive the importance of some
regulation for the dwellings of the poor, if they looked at it only as a
matter of finance (for, eventually, the state pays for all disease and
distress), it is probable they would put their shoulders to the wheel,
and get it out of the difficulty, at least as far as their fair share of
the matter goes.

Again, the more difficulty there is in legislating on this subject, and
especially if it can be shown that there is difficulty connected with it
of a kind almost insuperable by mere legislative efforts, the more there
remains for private individuals to do.  I cannot believe but that human
ingenuity, in some form or other, will be able to surmount the evil in
question.  The difference of expense in building a row of small cottages,
back to back, which it will be hard to ventilate, and which must be
without the most obvious household requisites, and that of building a row
of cottages each of which shall have a yard at the back, will be about 22
per cent. upon the outlay.  Where one would cost £100, which is a good
price for the lowest class cottages, the other would cost £122.  This
calculation is independent of the cost of the additional land which would
be required.  It is melancholy to think that this £22, and the price of
the additional land must, in thousands of cases, have determined the
health and morality of the inmates.  I do not mean to say that this
pecuniary difference is a slight matter, but still I do think it is
somehow or other to be provided for.  There is always this to be
considered, that the better the tenement, the more it will be cared for.
In the same Committee I have mentioned before, the Town Clerk of Leeds is

    “Would not the building of the better kind of cottages always secure
    the best tenants?—Unquestionably.

    “And the person who invested the property in buildings of that kind
    would rather take six per cent. of good tenants than seven per cent.
    of bad ones?—Yes; we have a number of instances in Leeds.  There is a
    gentleman named Croysdill, who has 200 or 300 cottages; he receives
    the lowest rents on an average of any large proprietor of cottages,
    and they are unquestionably the most comfortable dwellings, and the
    best occupied.”

It may be a strong thing to say, but I can conceive it possible, in a
Christian country, for a man to restrain himself from making the utmost
profit out of his possessions.  I can imagine, for instance, an owner of
land in a town being unwilling to demand such a price for it, as would
prevent the cottages of the labouring people from being built with those
comforts and conveniences upon which civilization may almost be said to
depend.  A man may think that there is some responsibility attached to
ownership; and he may not like to be in any way accessory to the building
of such habitations for the poor as he thoroughly disapproves of.  And if
the owner of land feels this, still more may the capitalist who
undertakes to build upon it.  It may be a satisfactory thing to collect
in any way much money; but I think, on the other hand, that most men have
a great pleasure in doing anything well, in a workmanlike and stable
manner.  And, strange as it may seem, it is very possible that motives of
profit and loss may not be the only ones which have led to such miserable
building, as is often to be seen in the houses of the poor.  People have
not thought about the matter.  If they had seen the merit of building
good houses of a small kind, I think that in many cases, the additional
money required would not have stood in the way.  In the Select Committee
of 1842, the following questions are asked of a witness from Liverpool:

    “Is Liverpool a town which has a considerable quantity of land which
    may be made available for the purpose of erecting houses?—There is a
    good deal of land in the suburbs.

    “The corporation possess a good deal of land?—They do.

                                * * * * *

    “Have you had under your consideration the provisions of what is
    called Lord Normanby’s Act, by which it is forbidden to build houses
    back to back?—Yes.

    “What were the reasons which induced the Corporation of Liverpool not
    to object to houses being so built?—If houses were not to be built
    back to back there would be a great sacrifice of land.”

I do not bring this evidence forward to censure that corporation, but
rather to excuse private persons in some measure, by showing the general
unconcern and ignorance about the subject.  It appears that even a
corporate body, who might be expected to discern the value of public
health and morals, and not to be subdued by the prospect of immediate and
apparent gain, have at least not made any endeavour to introduce a good
system of building cottages for the poor of their own town.  Not that
they, probably, were in the slightest degree, more mercenary than other
men; but it is only an instance to show how little attention has hitherto
been given to this subject.

There is at present in the metropolis, a Society for “improving the
dwellings of the industrious classes;” but what is one society?  This is
a matter which ought to interest the owners of property, and the
employers of labour, throughout the country.  Such a society as the one
named may do great good by building model houses, making scientific
investigations, and frequently laying before the public information on
the subject.  But the proper division of labour, as it seems to me, would
be that the state should give every legislative facility for contemplated
improvements in the way of building, should encourage all researches into
the subject, and be ready to enforce by law such regulations as, without
any great intrusion upon private property, might secure for small houses
those primary requisites without which it cannot be expected that they
will be anything but nests of disease.  In fact the state might,
eventually, so order the matter that builders should not merely build
such houses as the poor would take, for there is nothing in the way of a
shelter which they will refuse to occupy, but such as ought to be let to
them, with due care at least for the public health.  The local
authorities should take upon themselves, the lighting, cleansing, paving,
supplying with water, and the like.  For private individuals there
remains the most important part of the task, namely, the building of an
improved class of small houses.  In this good work the employers of
labour may be expected to come prominently forward.  Many a man will
speculate in all kinds of remote undertakings; and it will never occur to
him that one of the most admirable uses to which he might put his spare
capital, would be to provide fit dwelling places for the labouring
population around him.  He is not asked to build alms houses.  On the
contrary, let him take care to ensure, as far as he can, a good return
for the outlay, in order to avoid what may, possibly, be an unjust
interference with other men’s property; and also, and chiefly, that his
building for the poor may not end in an isolated act of benevolence, but
may indicate a mode of employing capital likely to be followed by others.
In the present state of things, the rents of small houses are
disproportionately high because of the difficulty and uncertainty of
collecting the rents for them; but by any improvement you introduce into
the habits of the occupiers of such houses, you make this difficulty and
uncertainty less; and thereby diminish rents.  And thus, in this case, as
in many others, physical and moral improvement go on acting and reacting
upon each other.  It is likely, too, that these poor people will pay with
readiness and punctuality even a higher rent, if it be for a really good
tenement, than a small one for a place which they must inhabit in the
midst of filth, discomfort, and disease, and therefore with carelessness
and penury.  Besides; the rents they pay now, will be found, I believe,
sufficient to reimburse the capitalist for an outlay which would suffice
to build tenements of a superior description to the present ones.

I do not mean to say that the beginners of such a system of employing
capital might not have a great deal to contend with: and it is to their
benevolence, and not to any money motives, that I would mainly appeal.
The devout feeling which in former days raised august cathedrals
throughout the land, might find an employment to the full as religious in
building a humble row of cottages, if they tell of honour to the great
Creator, in care for those whom he has bidden us to care for, and are
thus silently dedicated, as it were, to His name.

                                * * * * *

The allotment system has not hitherto, I believe, been tried to any
extent in the manufacturing districts.  Mr. James Marshall, and Mr. Gott,
of Leeds have begun to try it; but I think it is but recently; and that
there has not yet been time to ascertain the result of the system.  I
cannot but think, however, that it will be found more beneficial in
manufacturing, than even in rural, districts.  Let us enumerate some of
the probable advantages.  It would form an additional means of support—it
would tend to endear home to the working man—it would provide a pleasing
change of employment for him in good times—it would render him not so
listless when out of work—and it would give him knowledge, an additional
topic of conversation, and an interest in various things which he might
never, otherwise, have felt the least concern for.  Moreover, it amuses
and occupies the little ones in a family; and it leaves less temptation
for parents to employ children too early, in factories or workshops, when
they can find something else for them to do which may be profitable.  In
this respect, indeed, any improvement in domestic comfort, or any
additional domestic pursuit, is likely to be beneficial, as it enlarges
the sphere of household duties, and creates more reasons for the wife and
children being left at home.  Again, as there is hard labour to be done
in a garden, this allotment system might occasionally prevent the sense
of an almost unnatural dependence being so much exhibited, or felt, when
the children are employed in some factory, and the grown up people are
not.  This is one of the greatest evils that at present attend the state
of manufactures.  Some of the advantages which I have reckoned above, as
likely to be connected with the allotment system, are trifling things;
but small impulses, all tending one way, may lead to great results.  The
main objection which, I suppose, will be taken, is that to make
allotments in crowded districts is scarcely practicable.  Some beginning,
however, has been made at a place so crowded as Leeds, and at any rate,
in any future building arrangements, room might be left for allotments of
land, which would also secure many advantages with respect to the
sanitary condition of the people.  It may be remarked, too, that any
manufacturer, who possessed cottages with allotments to them, would have
an easy mode of rewarding good behaviour.  Such cottages would be eagerly
sought after by the men, and might be given, in preference, to those of
good character.

Is all this romantic?  Is it inevitable that the suburbs of a
manufacturing town must consist of dense masses of squalid habitations,
unblest by a proper supply of air, light, or water; undrained,
uncleansed, and unswept; enjoying only that portion of civilization which
the presence of the police declares; and presenting a scene which the
better orders hurry by with disgust?  Or, on the contrary may we not,
without giving ourselves up to Utopian dreams, imagine that we might
enter the busy resorts of traffic through extensive suburbs consisting of
cottages with their bits of land; and see, as we came along, symptoms
everywhere around of housewifely occupations, and of homes which their
humble owners might often think of with pleasure during their day’s
labour, looking forward to their return at evening with delight.  The
richer classes, even those low down in the scale of wealth, mostly
struggle to secure some portion of country air for themselves: surely
they might do their best to provide for the working man something like a
change from the atmosphere of the factory, or workshop, in which he must
pass the greatest part of his day throughout the whole year.

Against what I have said above, it may be urged that it would prevent the
workman from living near his work.  In many cases this may be an
inconvenience; but I do not imagine that, in general, it can be proved to
be an insurmountable, or even a very serious objection.  Turning again to
the evidence of the Town Clerk of Leeds before the Building Committee, I
find the following:

    “_Lord Ashley_.  I have been told by several builders in London, that
    in consequence of the improvements in the metropolis, great numbers
    of people have been driven to the out-skirts of the town; but they
    found in the out-skirts of the town an excellent house for less money
    than when they lived in miserable lodgings in the heart of the town;
    is this consistent with your experience in Leeds?—Quite consistent.

    “And no hardship to themselves?—The distance of going to work is the
    objection; but we find the poor people will for twenty years walk two
    or three miles in a morning to their work at six o’clock, and seem no
    worse for it.”


It will not be a matter unworthy the attention of a great employer of
labour, to improve and embellish the town where his work is carried on.
It is his duty to have some care for its public buildings, and its
institutions.  They are means for improving, sometimes by manifest
benefits, sometimes by silent influence, the condition of his men.
Surely if the employers of labour felt any thing like a home affection
for the towns where they live, they could not leave them in the rude,
unadorned state in which so many of them are.  And where is a man’s home,
if not where he can do most good; where he spends the best part of his
life; where he directs the labour, perhaps, of thousands, and absolutely
by his own exertion may affect the condition of the rising generation?
If such a man could see the many links of duty done, or duty disregarded,
that connect him with the spot where he works, let it be ever so dark,
squalid, and repulsive, he would still say that it was a great part of
his home, and not indulge too fondly in the idea of sunny meadows and
beautiful villas, to be enjoyed in some secure, golden, retirement.  He
would take an interest in the erection of churches, hospitals, buildings
for the display of art, or indeed, in any institutions that would further
his great work by elevating the sentiments, or improving the physical
condition, of his men.  The establishment of public baths would be
another matter worthy of his attention.  At these baths the poor might be
admitted on payment of a small fee to cover the expense of attendants.
The Romans, induced by social or political motives, had their public
baths, to which citizens were admitted; who formed, however, but a small
part of their people: surely higher motives might prevail with us to have
similar baths, which should be open to all our population.  While we are
speaking of institutions of various kinds, we must not omit Monts de
Piété, or Loan Societies, which may enable the poor man to get small
advances on reasonable terms.  It will not be enough to establish such
things as we have spoken of: there is yet harder work to be done in the
management of them.  All charitable institutions require vigorous
attention; and the better kind of men must not shrink from the public
business which they are the fittest to transact.  If founders or
benefactors were the only people needed, one generation might monopolize
the beneficence of all time; but charitable institutions require for ever
duty to be done by living men.  And, as I have intimated before, it is in
giving thought and labour, that we may often make the greatest and the
most profitable sacrifices for the good of others.  But to go back to
mere embellishment—it is very apt to go hand in hand with material
improvements.  Besides, it raises a higher standard.  It declares that
there is something besides food and clothing.  It may create, perhaps,
the love of beauty and order in minds that now seem sunk in sense.  At
any rate it may do so in a coming generation.  And it is not a little
matter if it attach the wealthier classes to these towns.  This naturally
brings me to a subject of which I think the reader will, on
consideration, see the importance.  I have heard it said, and thought, it
a far-seeing remark, that one of the greatest benefits which could be
conferred on manufacturing towns, would be to purify them from smoke, on
the ground that the wealthier classes would then have less objection to
reside in their vicinity: and, especially, that those who constitute the
natural aristocracy of the place, would not be so much tempted to remove
themselves from the spot where their fortunes had grown up.

Dr. Cooke Taylor, in his letters to the Archbishop of Dublin, speaking of
the parts of Manchester which “have been abandoned to the poorest grade
of all,” says,

    “Your Grace is aware that to some extent Dublin is similarly divided
    into the city of the rich and the city of the poor; but I know that
    many respectable and wealthy manufacturers reside in the liberties of
    Dublin, while the smoke-nuisance drives every body from the township
    of Manchester who can possibly find means of renting a house

Now is the doing away of this smoke a sort of chimerical and Quixotic
undertaking?  Not in the least.  The experiments appear to be decisive
upon this point; and had there been a reasonable care for the health,
beauty, and cleanliness of the towns where their work is carried on, the
manufacturers would long ago have contrived, I believe, that there should
be no such thing as opaque smoke issuing from their chimneys.  Count
Rumford says in his essays,

    “I never view from a distance, as I come into town, this black cloud
    which hangs over London without wishing to be able to compute the
    immense number of chaldrons of coals of which it is composed; for
    could this be ascertained, I am persuaded so striking a fact would
    awaken the curiosity, and excite the astonishment, of all ranks of
    the inhabitants, and _perhaps_ turn their minds to an object of
    economy to which they have hitherto paid little attention.”

The essay from which this extract is made was published in 1796: what
would the Count say now?  I believe the calculation which he was thinking
of has been made.  At any rate a near approximation might be; for I am
told, on scientific authority, that “the actual quantity of smoke hanging
any day over London is the fourth part of the fuel consumed on that day.”
Mr. Cubitt, the great builder, in an examination before the House of
Commons, quoted by the Sanitary Report, thus expresses himself on this

    “With respect to manufactories, here are a great number driven by
    competition to work in the cheapest way they can.  A man puts up a
    steam-engine, and sends out an immense quantity of smoke; perhaps he
    creates a great deal of foul and bad gas; that is all let loose.
    Where his returns are £1000 a month, if he would spend £5 a month
    more, he would make that completely harmless; but he says, ‘I am not
    bound to do that,’ and therefore he works as cheaply as he can, and
    the public suffer to an extent beyond all calculation.”

To show how little loss is to be apprehended from regulations abating
this nuisance, the Sanitary Report cites the authority of

    “Mr. Ewart, the Inspector of Machinery to the Admiralty, residing at
    Her Majesty’s Dockyard at Woolwich, where the chimney of the
    manufactory under his immediate superintendence, regulated according
    to his directions, offers an example of the little smoke that need be
    occasioned from steam-engine furnaces if care be exercised.  He
    states that no peculiar machinery is used; the stoker or fire-keeper
    is only required to exercise care in not throwing on too much coal at
    once, and to open the furnace door in such slight degree as to admit
    occasionally the small proportion of atmospheric air requisite to
    effect complete combustion.  Mr. Ewart also states that if the fire
    be properly managed, there will be a saving of fuel.  The extent of
    smoke denotes the extent to which the combustion is incomplete.  The
    chimney belonging to the manufactory of Mr. Peter Fairbairn, engineer
    at Leeds, also presents an example and a contrast to the chimneys of
    nearly all the other manufactories which overcast that town.  On each
    side of it is a chimney belonging to another manufactory, pouring out
    dense clouds of smoke; whilst the chimney at Mr. Fairbairn’s
    manufactory presents the appearance of no greater quantity of smoke
    than of some private houses.  Mr. Fairbairn stated, in answer to
    inquiries upon this subject, that he uses what is called Stanley’s
    feeding machinery, which graduates the supply of coal so as to
    produce nearly complete combustion.  After the fire is once lighted,
    little remains to the ignorance or the carelessness of the stoker.
    Mr. Fairbairn also states that his consumption of fuel in his
    steam-engine furnaces, in comparison with that of his immediate
    neighbours, is proportionately less.  The engine belonging to the
    cotton-mills of Mr. Thomas Ashton, of Hyde, near Stockport, affords
    to the people of that town an example of the extent to which, by a
    little care, they might be relieved of the thick cloud of smoke by
    which the district is oppressed.

    “At a meeting of manufacturers and others, held at Leeds, for the
    suppression of the nuisance of the smoke of furnaces, and to discuss
    the various plans for abating it, the resolution was unanimously
    adopted, ‘That in the opinion of this meeting the smoke arising from
    steam-engine fires and furnaces can be consumed, and that, too,
    without injury to the boilers, and with a saving of fuel.  Notice of
    legal proceedings being given against Messrs. Meux, the brewers in
    London, for a nuisance arising from the chimneys of two furnaces,
    they found that by using anthracite coal they abated the nuisance to
    the neighbourhood, and saved £200 per annum.  The West Middlesex
    Water Company, by diminishing the smoke of their furnaces saved 1000
    per annum.”

But, putting aside the consideration of any pecuniary benefit to be
gained, I think it would not be unreasonable to say that no considerate
owner of a factory would wait for public regulations in this matter, but
would, himself, be anxious to prevent his occupation from being injurious
to his neighbours.  In a manufacturing town, a man may find some excuse,
though a most futile one, in the consideration that it would be of no use
for him alone to consume his smoke, when there are hundreds of others
over whom he has no influence to persuade them to follow his example.
But you sometimes see one of these foul-mouthed chimneys blackening a
neighbourhood generally free from such things, and it does not seem to
occur to the owner of the chimney that he is doing any thing wrong,
provided he is legally secure.  Probably he gives away in the course of
the year such a sum as would put up an apparatus which would modify, if
not altogether remove, the smoke.  Let him not think that charity
consists only in giving away something: I doubt whether he can find any
work of benevolence more useful to his neighbourhood and to society in
general, than putting a stop to this nuisance of his own creation.  I am
not inclined to rest my case against it on the ground of health alone;
though I believe, with the Sanitary Commissioners, that it would be found
much more injurious than is generally imagined.  When you find that
flowers and shrubs will not endure a certain atmosphere, it is a very
significant hint to the human creature to remove out of that
neighbourhood.  But independently of the question of health, this
nuisance of smoke may be condemned simply on the ground of the waste and
injury which it occasions.  And what is to be said on the other side?
What can any man allege in its favour?  Our ancestors, who had
glimmerings occasionally, held that

    “Si homme fait candells deins un vill, per qui il cause un noysom
    sent al inhabitants, uncore ceo nest ascun nusans car le needfulness
    de eux dispensera ove le noisomness del smell.”  (2 Rolls Abr. 139.)

This is quoted in a grave public document (the Sanitary Report): had we
met with it elsewhere, we might have concluded that it came from that
chronicle in which Mr. Sidney Smith found the account which he gives of
the meeting of the clergy at Dordrecht.  I quote it, however, to show how
wisely our ancestors directed their attention in this instance.  If they
had been begrimed with smoke as we are, and, upon inquiry, had found that
there was no “needfulness” to back the “noisomeness,” it is probable they
would have dealt with it in their most summary manner.  Whereas I fear
that Mr. Mackinnon’s “Smoke Prohibition” Bill, amidst the hubbub of
legislation, has great difficulty in finding the attention which it
really deserves.  The truth is, this smoke nuisance is one of the most
curious instances how little pains men will take to rid themselves from
evils which attack them only indirectly.  If the pecuniary injury done to
the inhabitants of great towns by smoke could only be put in the form of
a smoke rate, what unwearied agitation there would be against it.  But
surely we ought not to view with less hostility, because of its silent
noxiousness, a thing which injures the health of our children, if not of
people of all ages, disfigures our public buildings, creates
uncleanliness and gives an excuse for it, affects in some degree the
spirits of all persons who live under it, renders manufacturing towns
less welcome places of residence for the higher classes (which is what
brings it in connexion with the subject of this Essay); and is, thereby,
peculiarly injurious to the labouring population.  If these pages should
survive to any future age, it will excite a smile in some curious reader
to see how urgent I have endeavoured to be about a matter which will then
be so obvious—“What strange barbarous times they must have been,” he will
say to himself: “wisdom of our ancestors, forsooth!”  “Far-off reader,”
if there be such an entity, “do not presume: thou hast thy smoke too.”

                                * * * * *

In connexion with the subject of “the town,” it may be well to go a
little into the matter of sewerage, which almost, above all things,
demands the attention of those who care for the health of the labouring
population, indeed, for the health of rich or poor.

This subject is admirably treated in a section of the Sanitary Report of
1842, under the head of “Arrangements for public health, external to the
residences.”  It is now almost a trite thing to show how closely
connected imperfect sewerage is with disease.  Scientific men will tell
you that you may track a fever along the windings of an open drain.  The
Sanitary Report mentions that,

    “In the evidence given before the Committee of the House of Commons,
    which received evidence on the subject in 1834, one medical witness
    stated, that of all cases of severe typhus that he had seen,
    eight-tenths were either in houses of which the drains from the
    sewers were untrapped, or which, being trapped, were situated
    opposite gully-holes; and he mentioned instances where servants
    sleeping in the lower rooms of houses were invariably attacked with

The above is a good instance to show how necessary it is to have some
general measures on these matters of building and drainage.  The expense
of trapping a gully-drain is about £3; at least that is what, I
understand, the Commissioners of Sewers are willing to do it for.  Now is
it likely that any poor man, having one of these nuisances before his
door, will go to such an expense to have it prevented.  It is probable
that it would be very good economy for him to do so, even if his whole
savings amounted only to £3.  But we all know that few men are
far-thinking enough to invest much of their capital in a thing which
makes so little show as pure air.  What do you find amongst the rich?  Go
through the great squares, where, in one night, a man will lavish on some
entertainment what would almost purify his neighbourhood, and you will
often find the same evils there, though in a different degree, that you
have met with in the most crowded parts of the town.  If the rich and
great have so little care about what comes

    “Betwixt the wind and their nobility”

you can hardly expect persons, whose perception in such matters is much
less nice, to have any care at all.  It is evident that the health of
towns requires to be watched by scientific men, and improvements
constantly urged on by persons who take an especial interest in the
subject.  If I were a despot, I would soon have a band of Arnotts,
Chadwicks, Southwood Smiths, Smiths of Deanston, Joneses, and the like;
and one should have gratified a wiser ambition than Augustus if one could
say of any great town, Sordidam inveni, purgatam reliqui.

The supply of water is of course one of the chief means for the
purification of a town.  It is at present, I fear, grievously neglected
throughout the country.  The Sanitary Report draws attention to the mode
of supplying water to Bath, and gas to Manchester: and adduces the latter
as an instance “of the practicability of obtaining supplies for the
common benefit of a town without the agency of private companies.”  And
Mr. Chadwick, after a lengthened investigation into the subject which
will well repay perusal, thus concludes:

    “I venture to add, as the expression of an opinion founded on
    communications from all parts of the kingdom, that as a highly
    important sanitary measure connected with any general building
    regulations, whether for villages or for any class of towns,
    arrangements should be made for all houses to be supplied with good
    water, and should be prescribed as being as essential to cleanliness
    and health as the possession of a roof or of due space; that for this
    purpose, and in places where the supplies are not at present
    satisfactory, power should be vested in the most eligible local
    administrative body, which will generally be found to be that having
    charge of cleansing and structural arrangements, to procure proper
    supplies for the cleansing of the streets, for sewerage, for
    protection against fires, as well as for domestic use.”

It is possible that some of my readers may think that the wretched state
of ventilation, drainage, and building, which I have been commenting
upon, is mainly to be accounted for by poverty.  It belongs, they may
say, to an old country; it is the long accumulated neglect of ages; it
embodies the many vicissitudes of trade which Great Britain has felt; it
is a thing which the people would remedy for themselves, if you could
only give them more employment and better wages.  In answer to this I
will refer to an authority quoted by Mr. Chadwick in his Essay on the
“Pressure and Progress of the Causes of Mortality,” read before the
Statistical Society in 1843.

    “In abundance of employment, in high wages, and the chief
    circumstances commonly reputed as elements of prosperity of the
    labouring classes, the city of New York is deemed pre-eminent.  I
    have been favoured with a copy of ‘_The Annual Report of the
    Interments in the City and County of New York for the Year_ 1842,’
    presented to the Common Council by Dr. John Griscom, the city
    inspector, in which it may be seen how little those circumstances
    have hitherto preserved large masses of people from physical
    depression.  He has stepped out of the routine to examine on the spot
    the circumstances attendant on the mortality which the figures
    represent.  He finds that upwards of 33,000 of the population of that
    city live in cellars, courts, and alleys, of which 6618 are dwellers
    in cellars.  ‘Many,’ he states, ‘of these back places are so
    constructed as to cut off all circulation of air, the line of houses
    being across the entrance, forming a _cul de sac_, while those in
    which the line is parallel with, and at one side of the entrance, are
    rather more favourably situated, but still excluded from any general
    visitation of air in currents.  As to the influence of these
    localities upon the health and lives of the inmates, there is, and
    can be, no dispute; but few are aware of the dreadful extent of the
    disease and suffering to be found in them.  In the damp, dark, and
    chilly cellars, fevers, rheumatism, contagious and inflammatory
    disorders, affections of the lungs, skin, and eyes, and numerous
    others, are rife, and too often successfully combat the skill of the
    physician and the benevolence of strangers.

    “‘I speak now of the influence of the locality merely.  The degraded
    habits of life, the degenerate morals, the confined and crowded
    apartments, and insufficient food, of those who live in more elevated
    rooms, comparatively beyond the reach of the exhalations of the soil,
    engender a different train of diseases, sufficiently distressing to
    contemplate; but the addition to all these causes of the foul
    influences of the incessant moisture and more confined air of
    under-ground rooms, is productive of evils which humanity cannot
    regard without shuddering.’

    “He gives instances where the cellar population had been ravaged by
    fever, whilst the population occupying the upper apartments of the
    same houses were untouched.  In respect to the condition of these
    places, he cites the testimony of a physician, who states that,
    ‘frequently in searching for a patient living in the same cellar, my
    attention has been attracted to the place by a peculiar and nauseous
    effluvium issuing from the door, indicative of the nature and
    condition of the inmates.’  A main cause of this is the filthy
    external state of the dwellings and defective street cleansing and
    defective supplies of water, which, except that no provision is made
    for laying it on the houses of the poorer classes, is about to be
    remedied by a superior public provision.”

After considering this account of the State of New York, it will hardly
do to say, that, even under favourable circumstances, you can leave the
great mass of the people to take care of those structural arrangements
with regard to their habitations, which only the scientific research of
modern times has taught any persons to regard with due attention.

                                * * * * *

We have now gone over some of the principal places where the employer of
labour may find scope for benevolent exertion.  It has been a most
inartificial division of the subject, but still one that may be retained
in the memory, which is a strange creature, not always to be bound by
logic, but led along by minute ties of association, among which those of
place are very strong and clinging.  I now venture to discuss a branch of
the subject which can hardly be referred to any particular spot, unless,
indeed, I were to name the manufacturer’s own house as the fit ground for
it: I mean the social intercourse between the employers and the employed.
Some persons will, perhaps, be startled at the phrase; hardly, however,
those who have come thus far with me.  By social intercourse I do not
merely mean that which will naturally take place in the ordinary
charities, such as visiting the sick, managing clothing societies, and
the like: but that intercourse which includes an interchange of thought,
an occasional community of pursuit, and an opportunity of indirect
instruction; which may be frequent and extensive enough to avoid the evil
effects of a sense of perpetual condescension on one side, and timidity
on the other; and which may give the employer some chance at least of
learning the general wants and wishes of his people, and also of
appreciating their individual characters.

This matter is not an easy one.  It requires tact, patience, discretion,
and the application of several of the maxims mentioned in the preceding
chapter.  I am not sure however, that it is any sacrifice whatever in the
way of pleasure.  The manufacturer’s family who occasionally give an
evening to social intercourse with their people, will not, perhaps, find
that evening less amusing than many that they may pass with their equals.

The advantage, to the rising generation of working people, of some
intercourse with their betters, would be very great.  I must here quote
the authority of one who has fully expressed in action the benevolent
views which he has indicated in the following words.  “No humble cottage
youth or maiden will ever acquire the charm of pleasing manners by rules,
or lectures, or sermons, or legislation, or any other of those abortive
means by which we from time to time endeavour to change poor human
nature, if they are not permitted to _see_ what they are taught they
should practise, and to hold intercourse with those whose manners are
superior to their own.”  This intercourse will probably lead to something
like accomplishments among the young people.  Some of them will profit
more than others from the manners and accomplishments which they will
observe.  And such differences will create a higher order of love among
the working people.  The manners of one sex will become different from
the manners of the other; and the difference of individuals in each sex
will be brought into play.  All this is favourable to morality.  When
people work at the same kind of work, have no different pursuits to call
out the different qualities of the two sexes, and have all of them
manners of the same rude stamp, you can hardly expect that there will be
much to ennoble them in their affections.

But, in themselves, the accomplishments and acquirements, which working
people may attain from social intercourse with their betters, are great
things.  The same kind-hearted employer, whom I have quoted before,
speaks thus upon the subject.  “Another point which has appeared to me of
great importance is to provide as many resources as possible of interest
and amusement for their leisure hours; something to which they may return
with renewed relish when their daily work is done; which may render their
homes cheerful and happy, and may afford subjects of thought,
conversation and pursuit among them.”  Moreover, a habit of attention,
and even scientific modes of thought, are often called out in young
people when they are learning some game.  Besides to do anything, or know
anything, which is harmless, is beneficial.  A man will not be a worse
workman because he can play at cricket, or at chess; or because he is a
good draughtsman, or can touch some musical instrument with skill.  He is
likely to have more self-respect, and to be a better citizen.  He cannot
succeed in anything without attention and endurance.  And these are the
qualities which will enable him to behave reasonably in the vicissitudes
of trade, or to prepare as much as possible against them.

In the Report on the condition of children and young persons employed in
Mines and Manufactures, there is some remarkable evidence given by a man
who had himself risen from the state of life which he describes.  It
leads us to perceive the great good which any improvement in the domestic
accomplishments of the women might be expected to produce.  He says,

    “Children during their childhood toil throughout the day, acquiring
    not the least domestic instruction to fit them for wives and mothers.
    I will name one instance; and this applies to the general condition
    of females doomed to, and brought up amongst, shop-work.  My mother
    worked in a manufactory from a very early age.  She was clever and
    industrious; and, moreover, she had the reputation of being virtuous.
    She was regarded as an excellent match for a working man.  She was
    married early.  She became the mother of eleven children: I am the
    eldest.  To the best of her ability she performed the important
    duties of a wife and mother.  She was lamentably deficient in
    domestic knowledge; in that most important of all human instruction,
    how to make the home and the fireside to possess a charm for her
    husband and children, she had never received one single lesson.  She
    had children apace.  As she recovered from her lying-in, so she went
    to work, the babe being brought to her at stated times to receive
    nourishment.  As the family increased, so any thing like comfort
    disappeared altogether.  The power to make home cheerful and
    comfortable was never given to her.  She knew not the value of
    cherishing in my father’s mind a love of domestic objects.  Not one
    moment’s happiness did I ever see under my father’s roof.  All this
    dismal state of things I can distinctly trace to the entire and
    perfect absence of all training and instruction to my mother.  He
    became intemperate; and his intemperance made her necessitous.  She
    made many efforts to abstain from shop-work; but her pecuniary
    necessities forced her back into the shop.  The family was large, and
    every moment was required at home.  I have known her, after the close
    of a hard day’s work, sit up nearly all night for several nights
    together washing and mending of clothes.  My father could have no
    comfort here.  These domestic obligations, which in a well-regulated
    house (even in that of a working man, where there are prudence and
    good management) would be done so as not to annoy the husband, to my
    father were a source of annoyance; and he, from an ignorant and
    mistaken notion, sought comfort in an alehouse.

    “My mother’s ignorance of household duties; my father’s consequent
    irritability and intemperance; the frightful poverty; the constant
    quarrelling; the pernicious example to my brothers and sisters; the
    bad effect upon the future conduct of my brothers; one and all of us
    being forced out to work so young that our feeble earnings would
    produce only 1_s._ a-week; cold and hunger, and the innumerable
    sufferings of my childhood, crowd upon my mind and overpower me.
    They keep alive a deep anxiety for the emancipation of the thousands
    of families in this great town and neighbourhood, who are in a
    similar state of horrible misery.  My own experience tells me that
    the instruction of the females in the work of a house, in teaching
    them to produce cheerfulness and comfort at the fireside, would
    prevent a great amount of misery and crime.  There would be fewer
    drunken husbands and disobedient children.  As a working man, within
    my own observation, female education is disgracefully neglected.  I
    attach more importance to it than to any thing else.”

This evidence is the more significant, because, one sees that the poor
woman had the material of character out of which the most engaging
qualities might have been formed.  Let her have seen better things in
early life, and even if her schooling had been somewhat deficient, had
she but enjoyed the advantage of such social intercourse with her betters
as we are now considering, that poor woman might have been a source of
joy and hope to her family, instead of a centre of repulsion.

Dr. Cooke Taylor, in his “Tour in the Manufacturing Districts,” has given
a table, which I subjoin, “showing the degree of instruction, age, and
sex; of the persons taken into custody, summarily convicted, or held to
bail, and tried and convicted, in Manchester, in the year 1841.”  The
table was formed on statistical details furnished by Sir Charles Shaw.
It shows a state of facts which has been deduced from other tables of a
like nature, but the facts are of such moment, that they can hardly be
kept too much in mind; especially when we consider that there are large
towns in which, as I have said before, half at least of the juvenile
population is growing up without education of any kind whatever. {147}
If such are the favourable results even of that small and superficial
education, which by the way I would rather call instruction than
education, described in the second and third headings of the table, what
may we not expect from a training where the youth or maiden finds in her
employers not only instructors, but friends and occasional companions?
What store of labour on the part of judges, jailors, and policemen, must
be saved by even a few of such employers.

                                  TOTAL IN THE YEAR 1841.                                         Degree of Instruction

                                                                1.  Neither Read nor     2.  Read only or      3.  Read and Write        4.  Superior
                                                                       Write.              Read & Write               well.              Instruction.

                             M. & F.     Male.       Fem.       Male.       Fem.       Male.       Fem.       Male.       Fem.       Male.       Fem.

1st Class     Taken into          13345        9925       3420        4901       2070        3944       1218         873        119         207         13

2nd Class     Summarily            2138        1661        447         795        265         660        198         193         14          13        . .
              Convicted or
              held to Bail

3rd Class     Tried and              24         645        179         277        100         276         72          82          7          10        . .


        Under 10        10 Years, &     15 Years, &     20 Years, &     25 Years, &     30 Years, &     40 Years, &     50 Years &      60 Years, &
        Years of age.   under 15.       under 20.       under 25.       under 30.       under 40.       under 50.       under 60.       upwards.

        Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.   Male.    Fem.

1st         62       6     681      83    1581     656    2425     909    1805     755    1775     582    1018     284     422      85     156      60

2nd          4     . .     151      17     302      84     418     150     264      93     327      75     129      39      49      14      17       5

3rd        . .     . .      30       2     150      54     196      61      97      21     109      25      43      11      15       3       5       2

Some persons may object to encouraging anything like refinement amongst
the operatives; and others, who would hardly object in open terms, find
it difficult to reconcile themselves to the idea of it.  Whatever there
is in this repugnance that arises from any selfish motive should be
instantly cast aside.  Do not let us be meanly afraid that the classes
below us will tread too closely on our heels.  What a disgrace it is, if,
with our much larger opportunities of leisure, with professions that
demand a perpetual exercise of the intellectual faculties, we cannot
preserve, on the average, an intellectual superiority fully equivalent to
the difference of rank and station.  Let the vast tracts now left barren
smile with cultivation: the happier lands, which the rivers of
civilization have enriched for ages, will still maintain their supremacy.
And remember this, that every insight you give the humbler classes into
the vast expanse of knowledge, you give them the means of estimating with
a deference founded on reason, those persons who do possess knowledge of
any kind.  Let us have faith that knowledge must in the long run lead to
good; and let us not fancy that our prosperity as a class depends upon
the ignorance of those beneath us.  Has not our partial enlightenment
taught us in some measure to be reconciled to the fact of there being
classes above us?  And why should we fear that knowledge, which smoothes
so many of the rugged things in life, should be found unavailing to
soften the inequalities of social distinction?  It is the ignorant
barbarians who can pluck the Roman Senate by the beard; and who, in the
depth of savageness, can see nothing in sex, age, station, or office, to
demand their veneration.  Make the men around you more rational, more
instructed, more helpful, more hopeful creatures if you can; above all
things treat them justly: and I think you may put aside any apprehension
of disturbing the economy of the various orders of the state.  And if it
can be so disturbed, let it be.

What I have said above is not drawn from airy fancies of my own.  Such
things as I have suggested, have been done.  I could mention one man, who
might not, however, thank me for naming him, who has devoted himself to
the social improvement of his working people: and, without such an
example, I should never, perhaps, have thought of, or ventured to put
forward, the above suggestions with respect to the social intercourse
between masters and men.  It is the same benevolent manufacturer from
whose letters to Mr. Horner I have made extracts before.  The general
system on which he has acted may be best explained in his own words.  “In
all plans for the education of the labouring classes my object would be
_not to raise any individuals among them above their condition_, _but to
elevate the condition itself_.  For I am not one of those who think that
the highest ambition of a working man should be to rise above the station
in which Providence has placed him, or that he should be taught to
believe that because the humblest, it is therefore the least happy and
desirable condition of humanity.  This is, indeed, a very common notion
among the working classes of the people, and a very natural one; and it
has been encouraged by many of their superiors, who have interested
themselves in the cause of popular improvement, and have undertaken to
direct and stimulate their exertions.  Examples have constantly been held
up of men who by unusual ability and proficiency in some branch of
science had raised themselves above the condition of their birth, and
risen to eminence and wealth; and these instances have been dwelt upon
and repeated, in a manner, that, whether intentionally or not, produces
the impression that positive and scientific knowledge is the summum bonum
of human education, and that to rise above our station in life, should be
the great object of our exertion.  This is not my creed.  I am satisfied
that it is an erroneous one, in _any_ system of education for _any_ class
of men.  Our object ought to be, not to produce a few clever individuals,
distinguished above their fellows by their comparative superiority, but
to make the great mass of individuals on whom we are operating, virtuous,
sensible, well-informed, and well-bred men.”  And again he states that
his object is “to show to his people and to others, that there is nothing
in the nature of their employment, or in the condition of their humble
lot, that condemns them to be rough, vulgar, ignorant, miserable, or
poor:—that there is nothing in either that forbids them to be
well-bred—well-informed, well-mannered—and surrounded by every comfort
and enjoyment that can make life happy;—in short, to ascertain and to
prove what the condition of this class of people might be made—what _it
ought to be_ made—what is the interest of all parties that _it should be_

                                * * * * *

Before concluding this chapter, I must say a few more words on the
general subject of interference.  No one can be more averse than I am to
unnecessary interference, or more ready to perceive the many evils which
attend it.  There is, however, the danger of carrying non-interference
into inhumanity.  Mankind are so accustomed to the idea that government
mainly consists in coercion, that they sometimes find it difficult to
consider interference, even as applied to benevolent undertakings, and
for social government, in any other than a bad light.  But take the rule
of a father, which is the type of all good government, that under which
the divine jurisdiction has been graciously expressed to us.  Consider
how a wise father will act as regards interference.  His anxiety will not
be to drag his child along, undeviatingly, in the wake of his own
experience; but rather, to endue him with that knowledge of the chart and
compass, and that habitual observation of the stars, which will enable
the child, himself, to steer safely over the great waters.  Such a father
will not be unreasonably solicitous to assimilate his son’s character or
purposes to his own.  He will not fall into the error of supposing that
experience is altogether a transferable commodity.  The greatest good
which he designs for his son will, perhaps, be that which he can give him
indirectly, and which he may never speak to the youth about.  He will
seek to surround him with good opportunities and favourable means: and
even when he interferes more directly, he will endeavour, in the first
instance, to lead rather than to compel, so that some room for choice may
still be left.  Not thinking that his own power, his own dignity, his own
advantage are the chief objects for him to look to, his imagination will
often be with those whom he rules; and he will thus be able to look at
his own conduct with their eyes, not with his.  This, alone, will keep
him from a multiplicity of errors.  Now the same principles, actuated by
the same kind of love, should be at the bottom of all social government.
I believe that we shall be better able in practice to place wise limits
to interference by regulating and enlightening the animus which prompts
it, than by laying down rules for its action determined upon abstract
considerations.  The attempt to fix such rules is not to be despised; but
if the persons, or society, about to interfere on any occasion, desired a
good object from right motives, I think they would have the best chance
of keeping themselves from using wrong means.  In many cases, an unwise
interference takes place from a partial apprehension of the good to be
aimed at: enlarge and exalt the object; let it not be one-sided; and
probably the mode of attaining it will partake largely of the wisdom
shown in the choice of it.  If, for instance, a government saw that it
had to encourage, not only judicious physical arrangements, but mental
and moral development, amongst those whom it governs, it would be very
cautious of suppressing, or interfering with, any good thing which the
people would accomplish for themselves.  The same with a private
individual, an employer of labour for instance, if he values the
independence of character and action in those whom he employs, he will be
careful in all his benevolent measures, to leave room for their energy to
work.  What does he want to produce?  Something vital, not something
mechanical.  It is often a deficiency of benevolence, and not an
overflow, that makes people interfering in a bad sense.  Frequently the
same spirit which would make a man a tyrant in government, would make him
a busy-body, a meddler, or a pedantic formalist, in the relations of
ordinary life.  I have taken the instance of father and son, which might
be supposed by many as one in which extreme interference was not only
justifiable, but requisite.  In stating how necessary it is even there to
be very careful as regards the extent and mode of interference, I leave
my readers to estimate how essential it must be in all other cases where
the relation is not of that closely connected character.  I believe that
the parental relation will be found the best model on which to form the
duties of the employer to the employed; calling, as it does, for active
exertion, requiring the most watchful tenderness, and yet limited by the
strictest rules of prudence from intrenching on that freedom of thought
and action which is necessary for all spontaneous development.


There is a common phrase which is likely to become a most powerful
antagonist to any arguments that have been put forward in the foregoing
pages: and I think it would be good policy for me to commence the attack,
and endeavour to expose its weakness in the first instance.  If you
propose any experiment for remedying an evil, it is nearly sure to be
observed that your plan is well enough in theory, but that it is not
practical.  Under that insidious word “practical” lurk many meanings.
People are apt to think that a thing is not practical, unless it _has_
been tried, is immediate in its operation, or has some selfish end in
view.  Many who do not include, either avowedly, or really, the two
latter meanings, incline, almost unconsciously perhaps, to adopt the
former, and think that a plan, of which the effects are not foreknown,
cannot be practical.  Every new thing, from Christianity downwards, has
been suspected, and slighted, by such minds.  All that is greatest in
science, art, or song, has met with a chilling reception from them.  When
this apprehensive timidity of theirs is joined to a cold or selfish
spirit, you can at best expect an Epicurean deportment from them.
Warming themselves in the sun of their own prosperity, they soothe their
consciences by saying how little can be done for the unfed, shivering,
multitude around them.  Such men may think that it is practical wisdom to
make life as palatable as it can be, taking no responsibility that can be
avoided, and shutting out assiduously the consideration of other men’s
troubles from their minds.  Such, however, is not the wisdom inculcated
in that religion which, as Goethe well says, is grounded on “Reverence
for what is under us,” and which teaches us “to recognize humility and
poverty, mockery and despite, disgrace and wretchedness, suffering and
death, as things divine.”

There is a class of men utterly different from those above alluded to,
who, far from entertaining any Epicurean sentiments, are prone to view
with fear the good things of this world.  And, indeed, seeing the
multiform suffering which is intertwined with every variety of human
life, a man in present ease and well-being may naturally feel as if he
had not his share of what is hard to be endured.  The fanatic may seek a
refuge from prosperity, or strive to elevate his own nature, by
self-inflicted tortures; but one, who adds wisdom to sensibility, finds
in his own well-being an additional motive for benevolent exertions.  It
is surely bad management when a man does not make a large part of his
self-sacrifices subservient to the welfare of his fellow-men.  In active
life nothing avails more than self-denial; and there its trials are
varying and multifarious: but ascetics, by placing their favourite virtue
in retirement, made it dwindle down into one form only of self-restraint.

                                * * * * *

I suppose there are few readers of history who have not occasionally
turned from its pages with disgust, confusion, a craving for any grounds
of disbelief, and a melancholy darkness of soul.  It can hardly be
otherwise, when you read, for instance, of the colossal brutalities of
the Roman Emperors, many of whom indulged in a sportive cruelty to their
fellow men, which reminds one of children with insects.  When you find,
again, some mighty Master of the World, renowned for valour, and for
prudence, one of those emphatically called the “Good” Emperors, kindly
presenting hundreds of men to kill each other for the amusement of the
Roman multitude—when you are told that that multitude contained, what may
have been for that age, good men, and gentle women—when, passing lower
down the turbid stream of the recorded past, you read of Popes and
Cardinals, Inquisitors and Bishops, men who must have heard from time to
time some portions of the holy words of mercy and of love, when you find
them, I say, counselling and plotting and executing, the foulest deeds of
blood—when, descending lower still, you approach those days when law
became the tyrant’s favourite scourge, and you find the legal slave
telling his master how he has interrogated some poor wretch “in torture,
before torture, after torture, and between torture”—when you have some
insight into what that thing torture was, by contrasting the hand-writing
of the distracted sufferer before and after his examination—when, to your
surprise, you read that these very victims of persecution, were
themselves restless and dissatisfied, unless they could direct the arm of
power against another persecuted race—and when, coming to your own day,
you find that men, separated from you by distance, though not by time,
can show the utmost recklessness of human life, if differently coloured
from their own.  Pondering over these things, your heart may well seek
comfort in the thought that these tyrants were, or are, rude men, of iron
frame, ready to inflict, ready themselves to suffer.  It is not so.  A
Nero clings to his own life with abject solicitude.  A Louis the
Eleventh, who could keep other men in cages, wearies Heaven with prayers,
and Earth with strange devices, to preserve his own grotesque existence.
A James the First, who can sanction at the least, if not direct, the
torture to be applied to a poor, old, clergyman, was yet in the main a
soft-hearted man, can feel most tenderly for a broken limb of any
favourite, have an anxious affection for “Steenie and Baby Charles,” and
an undoubted, and provident, regard for his own “sacred” person.  What
shall we say, too, of that Chancellor of his, a man, like his master, of
a soft heart, full of the widest humanity, and yet, as far as we know,
unconscious of the horror of those ill doings transacted in his own great
presence?  Why is it that I recall these things?  Why do I bring forward
what many of us, forgetting the iron weight with which the sentiments of
his age press down even upon the mightiest genius, might look upon as a
humiliating circumstance far greater than it is, in the life of a man we
ought all to love so much?  Is history a thing done away with, or is not
the past for ever in the present?  And is it not but too probable that we
ourselves are occasionally guilty of things which, for our lights, are as
sad aberrations as those which, in reading of the past, we have dwelt
upon with the profoundest pity, and turned away from in overwhelming
amazement?  Are we quite sure that none of the vices of tyranny rest with
us; and that we individually, or nationally, have not to answer for any
carelessness of human life or for any indifference to human suffering?

                                * * * * *

What is it that has put a stop to many of the obvious atrocities I allude
to as disgracing the page of history?  The introduction of some great
idea, the recognition, probably, in some distinct form of the command “to
do unto others as you would they should do unto you.”  And this is what
is wanted with regard to the relation of the employer and employed.  Once
let the minds even of a few men be imbued with an ampler view of this
relation, and it is scarcely possible to estimate the good that may
follow.  Around that just idea what civilization may not grow up!  You
gaze at the lofty cathedral in the midst of narrow streets and squalid
buildings, but all welcome to your sight as the places where miserable
men first found sanctuary; you pass on and look with pleasure at the rich
shops and comfortable dwellings; and then you find yourself amongst ample
streets, stately squares, and the palaces of the great, with their
columns and their statues: and if then you turn your thoughts to the
complex varieties of modern life, and the progress of civilization and
humanity, may you not see the same thing there; how all that is good, and
merciful, and holy, is to be traced up to some cathedral truths, at first
little understood, just restraining rude men from bloody deeds, and then
gradually extending into daily life, being woven into our familiar
thoughts, and shedding light, and security, and sanctity, around us?
And, as the traveller’s first impulse, when he rises in the morning after
his journey, is to catch a glimpse of that famous building which must
ever be the thing most worthy of note in the city; so, in your travels,
would you not look first for these cathedral truths, and delight to
recognize their beneficent influence wherever you may meet with anything
that is good in man?

                                * * * * *

And now, reader, I have come to the close of this Essay.  I do not assert
that I have brought forward any specific, or even any new remedy of a
partial nature, for the evils I have enumerated.  Indeed I have not
feared to reiterate hacknied truths.  But you may be sure, that if you do
not find yourself recurring again and again to the most ordinary maxims,
you do not draw your observations from real life.  Oh, if we could but
begin by believing and acting upon some of the veriest common places!
But it is with pain and grief that we come to understand our first
copy-book sentences.  As to the facts, too, on which I have grounded my
reasonings, they are mostly well known, or might be so; for I have been
content to follow other men’s steps, and so assist in wearing a pathway
for the public mind.  I am well aware that I have left untouched many
matters bearing closely on the subject, more closely, perhaps, some of my
readers will think, than the topics I have taken.  In the fields,
however, of politics, and political economy, there are many reapers: and
the part of the subject which I have chosen seemed to me of sufficient
importance to be considered by itself.  I know that in much of what I
have said, I have touched with an unpractised hand, upon matters which
some of those who are great employers of labour will have examined and
mastered thoroughly.  Still, let them remember, that it is one thing to
criticise, and another to act.  Their very familiarity with the subject
may render them dull to the means of doing good which their position
affords them.  We pass much of our time in thinking what we might do if
we were somewhat different from what we are; and the duties appropriate
to our present position invite our attention in vain.

                                * * * * *

To others I may say, there is nothing in these pages, perhaps, that will
exactly point out the path most fitting for you to take; still I cannot
but think that so many have been indicated, that you will have no
difficulty in finding some one that may lead to the main object if your
heart is set upon it.  If you throw but a mite into the treasury of good
will which ought to exist between the employers and the employed, you do
something towards relieving one of the great burdens of this age,
possibly of all ages; you aid in cementing together the various orders of
the state; you are one of those who anticipate revolutions by doing some
little part of their duty towards the men of their own time; and, if you
want any reward to allure you on, you will find it in the increased
affection towards your fellows which you will always have, when you have
endeavoured to be just to them.

But I would wish to put more solemn considerations before you.  Ask
yourself, if making all allowance for the difference of times and
countries, you think that the payment of poor rates, of itself, fulfils
the command to visit the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry.
Depend upon it, our duties, however they may be varied by the different
circumstances of different periods, cannot be satisfied by any thing that
the state demands of us, or can do for us.  We have each, from the
highest to the lowest, a circle of dependents.  We say that Kings are
God’s Vicegerents upon earth: but almost every human being has at one
time or other of his life, a portion of the happiness of those around him
in his power, which might make him tremble, if he did but see it in all
its fullness.  But at any rate, the relation of master and man is a
matter of manifest and large importance.  It pervades all societies, and
affects the growth and security of states in the most remarkable and
pregnant manner; it requires the nicest care; gives exercise to the
highest moral qualities; has a large part in civil life; a larger part in
domestic life; and our conduct in it will surely be no mean portion of
the account which we shall have to render in the life that is to come.


According to tables of which Mr. Grainger states that he has ascertained
the general accuracy, the proportionate numbers among the working-classes
in the Birmingham district at present receiving education are as
follows:—Out of a population of 180,000 persons,

10,902 or 6.05 per cent. attend day or evening schools only;

4,141 or 2.30 per cent. attend both day or evening and Sunday-schools;

12,616 or 7.01 per cent. attend a Sunday-school only; making a total

27,659 or 15.36 per cent. of the population attending schools of some
kind or other.

Of this number—

5,835 are under 5 or above 15 years of age; leaving

21,824 children between the ages of 5 and 15 attending school in the
borough of Birmingham at the time the schools were visited.

According to the population abstracts of 1821 and 1831, one-fourth of the
total population consists of children between these ages.  Hence it would
appear, that of the 45,000 between the ages of 5 and 15 in the borough of

21,824 or 48.5 per cent. were receiving instruction in day and
Sunday-schools; and

23,176 or 51.5 per cent. were not found receiving instruction in
either day or Sunday-schools within the borough of Birmingham.

                    (Grainger, Evidence: App.  Pt. I., p. _f_ 185, 1. 13.)

In the Wolverhampton district, including the neighbouring towns of
Willenhall, Bilston, Wednesfield, Sedgley, Darlaston, and also in the
towns of Dudley, Walsall, Wednesbury, and Stourbridge, though there are
many day-schools, yet the chief means relied on for the education of the
working classes are Sunday-schools.  In the Collegiate Church district in
the town of Wolverhampton, containing a population of from 16,000 to
20,000 persons, there is no National or British School.  There is not a
single school, reading-room, or lending library attached to any of the
manufactories, foundries, or other works, with one exception near
Wednesbury; there are no evening-schools, and there is only one
industrial school in these districts, namely, at Wednesbury.  It is
stated in evidence that the great majority of the children receive no
education at all; that not one half of them go even to the
Sunday-schools, and that those who do go to these schools seldom attend
them with regularity.  Throughout the whole of these districts, the
proportion that can read is represented as being unusually small; some
who stated that they could read, when examined, were found unable to read
a word; and out of 41 witnesses under eighteen years of age examined at
Darlaston, only four could write their names.  (Horne, Report: App. Pt.
II., p. Q 16, ss. 182 _et seq._)

“The number of children on the books at the different schools in
Sheffield, comprising every description of schools,” says Mr. Symons,
“was made the subject of minute and accurate inquiry in 1838, by the Rev.
Thomas Sutton, the vicar; and I have reason to believe that no material
difference has taken place in the amount of scholars taught at the
‘common’ and ‘middling’ private day-schools since Mr. Sutton’s census was
made.”  From this census it appears that the maximum number of children
on the books of the different day-schools, including the infant-schools,
is 800; but on a personal examination of these schools by the
Sub-Commissioner, he states that a large proportion, no less than 26.47
per cent. out of the total number on the books, must be deducted as being
continually absent.  “Assuming,” therefore, he continues, “that the
schools thus estimated are a criterion of the rest (and they are
certainly superior), the number who attend the schools out of the 8000 on
the books is only 5869.  Of the number present at the schools visited,
when probably the least instructed were absent, it appears that 45.83 per
cent. were unable to read fairly, and that 63.43 per cent. could not
write fairly.  Taking this as an index to the education of the total
number on the books, it results that, of the whole 8000, 4333 only can
read fairly, and 2925 only can write fairly, or, in other terms, have
attained an elemental education.”

The population of Sheffield _parish_ is computed to be 123,000.  Of this
number it is assumed that at least one-fifth will consist of children
between the ages of three and thirteen.  There will be therefore 24,600.
Of these more than two-thirds will be of the working classes: at least
16,500, then, of these classes are of an age at which they ought to be
receiving education at day-schools; yet little more than one-third of
this number, viz. one only out of 2.8 attend day-schools.  It is
impossible to ascertain what proportion of those who do not attend
day-schools can read or write; but as it is certain that they are less
instructed by at least one-half, I have every reason to believe that, out
of the total 16,500 working class children, not above 6,500 can read
fairly.  Among the older youths there is still less education, for they
have had more time to forget the little they were formerly taught.  This
estimate is so thoroughly corroborated by the most trustworthy evidence I
have received, that I entertain the belief that two-thirds of the working
class children and young persons are growing up in a state of ignorance,
and are unable to read.  On the books of the Sunday-schools there were
during the last year 2258, of which the average attendance was only 1708.
From this it appears that 24.40 per cent. or nearly a quarter, are absent
of the whole number on the books of the Sunday-schools.  (Report: App.
Pt. I. pp. E 18 _et seq_. ss. 136, 138, 144–148, 150, 151.)

In the returns from the Warrington district it is stated that nearly
three-fourths of the children can read; but the Sub-Commissioner reports
that of this number nine-tenths can only give the sound of a few
monosyllables; that they have just acquired so much knowledge in the
Sunday-schools, and that they will probably attain to little more during
their lives.  (Austin, Report: App.  Pt.  II. p.  M 19, ss. 125 _et

_Report on the Physical and Moral Condition of the Children and young
Persons employed in Mines and Manufactures_.


This Essay is chiefly based on evidence respecting the condition of the
labouring classes in towns.  It is not, however, necessary, on that
account, to consider the subject as applying to those classes only.
There is good reason to believe that the state of the agricultural
labourers does not differ much, at least in kind, from that of the
working people in towns.  The remedies for the evils in both are of the
same nature; and whatever results are arrived at with respect to the
health of towns may generally be adapted, without much difficulty, to the
wants of the rural population.

                                                             Feb. 6, 1845.


Knowing that there is an element of decay in any over-statement, I was
very anxious, in the former Essay, to avoid even the least exaggeration
in describing the distressed state of the labouring people.  This anxiety
was, in that case, needless.  An elaborate Report has since been
published by the Health of Towns Commission; and the evidence there given
more than bears out the statements which I then made.

Indeed, the condition of a large part of the labouring classes, as seen
in this Report, is evidently one which endangers the existence amongst
them of economy, decency, or morality.  You may there see how more than
savage is savage life led in a great city.  Dr. Southwood Smith in his
evidence says,

    “The experiment has been long tried on a large scale with a dreadful
    success, affording the demonstration that if, from early infancy, you
    allow human beings to live like brutes, you can degrade them down to
    their level, leaving them scarcely more intellect, and no feelings
    and affections proper to human minds and hearts.”

He mentions that it has happened to him, in his visits to the poor, as
Physician to the Eastern Dispensary, to be unable to stay in the room,
even to write the prescription.

    “What must it be,” he adds, “to live in such an atmosphere, and to go
    through the process of disease in it?”

In another place he says,

    “You cannot in fact cure.  As long as the poor remain in the
    situations which produce their disease, the proper remedies for such
    disease cannot be applied to them.”

This state of things, too, according to the same authority, is advancing
on us:

    “Whatever may be the cause, the fact is certain, that at the present
    time an epidemic is prevailing, which lays prostrate the powers of
    life more rapidly and completely than any other epidemic that has
    appeared for a long series of years.”

The experienced student of history, reading of long wars, looks for their
consummation in the coming pestilence.  Gathering itself up, now from the
ravaged territory, now from the beleaguered town, now from the carnage of
the battle field, this awful form arises at last in its full strength,
and rushing over the world, leaves far behind man’s puny efforts at
extermination.  We have a domestic pestilence, it seems, dwelling with
us; and if we look into the causes of that, shall we find less to blame,
or less to mourn over, than in the insane wars which are the more
acknowledged heralds of this swift destruction?  But, to return to
detail.  Mr. Toynbee, one of the surgeons of the St. George’s and the St.
James’s Dispensary, tells us:

    “In the class of patients to our dispensary, nearly all the families
    have but a single room each, and a very great number have only one
    bed to each family.  The state of things in respect to morals, as
    well as health, I sometimes find to be terrible.  I am now attending
    one family, where the father, about 50, the mother about the same
    age, a grown up son about 20, in a consumption, and a daughter about
    17, who has scrofulous affection of the jaw and throat, for which I
    am attending her, and a child, all sleep in the same bed in a room
    where the father and three or four other men work during the day as
    tailors, and they frequently work there late at night with candles.
    I am also treating, at this present time, a woman with paralysis of
    the lower extremities, the wife of the assistant to a stable-keeper,
    whose eldest son, the son by a former wife, and a girl of 11 or 12
    years of age, all sleep in the same bed!  In another case which I am
    attending in one room, there are a man and his wife, a grown up
    daughter, a boy of 16, and a girl of 13; the boy has scrofulous
    ulcers in the neck; the father, though only of the age of 49, suffers
    from extreme debility and a broken constitution.”

The medical officer of the Whitechapel Union says,

    “I know of few instances where there is more than one room to a

Mr. Austin, an architect, gives us the following description of Snow’s
Rents, Westminster, which is but one instance “among many worse,” of the
state of things produced simply by the want, as he expresses it, of
“proper structural arrangement and control.”

    “This court is of considerable width, upwards of 20 feet, but the
    houses are mostly without yards, and the refuse, when become
    intolerable inside the houses, is deposited in the court itself, the
    whole centre being a pool of black stagnant filth, that accumulates
    from time to time, and is left to decompose and infect the whole
    neighbourhood.  Ventilation, or rather a healthy state of the
    atmosphere is impossible.  What little disturbance of the air does
    take place, would appear only to render its state more intolerable.”

Being asked what the condition of this court is with regard to drainage
and the supply of water, he says,

    “There are none whatever there.  In wet weather, when the water
    attains a certain height In the court, it finds its way into an open,
    black, pestilence-breathing ditch in a neighbouring court; but in the
    ordinary state of things the whole centre of this place is one mass
    of wet decomposing filth, that lies undisturbed for weeks, from
    which, so dreadful is the effluvia at times arising, that in the
    tenants’ own words, ‘they are often ready to faint, it’s so bad!’
    The supply of water consists in this: that 16 houses are accommodated
    with one stand pipe in the court!  On the principal cleaning day,
    Sunday, the water is on for about five minutes, and it is on also for
    three days in the week for one half hour, and so great is the rush to
    obtain a modicum before it is turned off, that perpetual quarrelling
    and disturbance is the result.”

If we go now from the Metropolis to some of the great towns, we find,
substantially, the same account, varied by the special circumstances of
each place.  Liverpool, which we will look at next, is probably the
worst.  An official enumeration of the court and cellar population of
that town was made two years ago, from which it appeared that 55,534
persons, more than one-third of the working classes, inhabited courts;
and 20,168 persons lived in cellars.  There are also cellars in the
courts containing probably 2000 inhabitants.

    “With regard to the _character_ of these courts, 629, or nearly
    one-third, were closed at both ends; 875, or less than one-half, were
    open at one end; and only 478, or less than one-fourth, open at both

    “The cellars are 10 or 12 feet square; generally flagged,—but
    frequently having only the bare earth for a floor,—and sometimes less
    than six feet in height.  There is frequently no window, so that
    light and air can gain access to the cellar only by the door, the top
    of which is often not higher than the level of the street.  In such
    cellars, ventilation is out of the question.  They are of course
    dark; and from the defective drainage, they are also very generally
    damp.  There is sometimes a back-cellar, used as a sleeping
    apartment, having no direct communication with the external
    atmosphere, and deriving its scanty supply of light and air solely
    from the front apartment.”

The above extract, and the numbers of the court and cellar population,
are taken from Dr. Duncan’s evidence.  He thinks, from extensive data in
his possession, that the numbers, as given in this enumeration, are under
the mark.  And it is suggested that, possibly, casual lodgers have been
omitted.  Dr. Duncan then gives some further details which enable us more
fully to understand what dog-holes these cellars are.

    “Of the entire number of cellars, 1617 have the back apartment I have
    mentioned; while of 5297 whose measurements are given, 1771, or
    one-third, are from five to six feet deep,—2324 are from four to five
    feet, and 1202 from three to four feet below the level of the street:
    5273, or more than five-sixths, have no windows to the front; and
    2429, or about 44 per cent. are reported as being either damp or

In cellars of this kind there are sometimes 30 human beings, sometimes
more, “furnished,” as Dr. Duncan tells us, “with a supply of air
sufficient for the wants of only seven.”  Occasionally, in this Report,
there are scenes described in a circumstantial, Dutch-picture way which
the most vigorous imagination, priding itself on its ingenuity in
depicting wretchedness, would hardly have conceived.  Take the following
instance from the evidence of Mr. Holme of Liverpool.

    “Some time ago I visited a poor woman in distress, the wife of a
    labouring man.  She had been confined only a few days, and herself
    and infant were lying on straw in a vault through the outer cellar,
    with a clay floor, impervious to water.  There was no light nor
    ventilation in it, and the air was dreadful.  _I had to walk on
    bricks across the floor to reach her bed-side_, _as the floor itself
    was flooded with stagnant water_.  This is by no means an
    extraordinary case, for I have witnessed scenes equally wretched; and
    it is only necessary to go into Crosby-street, Freemason’s row, and
    many cross streets out of Vauxhall-road, to find hordes of poor
    creatures living in cellars, which are almost as bad and offensive as
    charnel houses.  In Freemason’s-row I found, about two years ago, a
    court of houses, the floors of which were below the public street,
    and the area of the whole court was a floating mass of putrefied
    animal and vegetable matter, so dreadfully offensive that I was
    obliged to make a precipitate retreat.  Yet the whole of the houses
    were inhabited!”

Think what materials for every species of comfort and luxury, are
perpetually circulating through Liverpool.  If there had not been, for
many a day, a sad neglect of supervision on the part of the employers,
and great improvidence on that of the employed, we should not see the
third part of the working population of such a town immersed in the most
abject wretchedness, and all this wealth passing through and leaving so
little of the comforts of life in the active hands through which it has
passed.  It may be said, however, that a considerable part of the
population of Liverpool is immigrant, and Irish.  Turn then to
Nottingham, or York, or Preston, it is the same story.  Mr. Hawksley, the
engineer, says of Nottingham:

    “With few exceptions the houses of Nottingham and its vicinity are
    laid out either in narrow streets, or more commonly are built in
    confined courts and alleys, the entrance to which is usually through
    a tunnel from 30 to 36 inches wide, about 8 feet high, and from 25 to
    30 feet long, so that purification by the direct action of the air
    and solar light is in the great majority of these cases perfectly
    impracticable.  Upwards of 7000 houses are erected _back to back and
    side to side_, and are of course by this injurious arrangement
    deprived of the means of adequate ventilation and decent privacy.”

Dr. Laycock says of York,

    “From these inquiries it appears that in the parish of St. Dennis, in
    which strict accuracy was observed, from 8 to 11 persons slept in one
    room in 4½ per cent. of the families resident there; in 7½ per cent.
    from 6 to 8 persons slept in one room; of the total 2195 families
    visited by the district visitors, 26 per cent. had one room only for
    all purposes.”

The Rev. Mr. Clay gives an account of an examination of a part of

    “The streets, courts, and yards examined contain about 422 dwellings,
    inhabited at the time of the inquiry by 2400 persons sleeping in 852
    beds, i.e. an average of 5.68 inhabitants to each house, and 2.8
    persons to each bed.

    “In 84 cases 4 persons slept in the same bed.
    „ 28 „ 5
    „ 13 „ 6
    „ 3 „ 7
    „ 1 „ 8

    “And, in addition, a family of 8 on bed stocks covered with a little

The results of statistical investigations, with respect to the duration
of life, are in unison with the inferences that we should naturally make
from the facts before us.  Dr. Laycock shows us that in York, in the best
drained parishes, where the population to the square rood is 27, and the
mean altitude above the sea in feet is 50, the mean age at death is
35.32; in intermediate parishes, where the population is denser and the
altitude less, the mean age at death is 27.29; in the worst drained,
worst ventilated, and lowest situated parishes, the mean age at death is
22.57.  He mentions a fact well worth noticing, that the cholera in 1832
broke out in the court called “the Hagworm’s nest,” which is in the same
spot where the pestilences of 1551 and 1604 had dwelt.  Surely, in these
last two hundred years, we might have drained and ventilated a locality
which experience had shown to be so attractive to epidemics.  The Rev.
Mr. Clay has furnished a table, subjoined in the Appendix, showing the
progressive diminution of vitality in the respective classes of gentry,
tradesmen, and operatives, at Preston.  Dr. Duncan says respecting the
mortality of Liverpool,

    “While in Rodney Street and Abercromby Wards, with upwards of 30,000
    inhabitants, the mortality is below that of Birmingham—the most
    favoured in this respect of the large towns in England—in Vauxhall
    Ward, with a nearly equal amount of population, the mortality exceeds
    that which prevails in tropical regions. * * * * * 177 persons die
    annually in Vauxhall Ward for every 100 dying out of an equal amount
    of population in Rodney Street and Abercromby Wards.”

Vauxhall Ward is where the greater number of inhabitants dwell in
cellars.  Well may Dr. Duncan, in commenting on this difference of
mortality in Vauxhall Ward and Rodney Street, declare that it is a fact
“sufficient to arouse the attention and stimulate the exertions of the
most indifferent.”

                                * * * * *

The average age at death in the following classes is made out from all
the deaths which took place in the Suburban, the Rural, and the Town
districts of Sheffield in the three years, 1839, 1840, and 1841:

Gentry, professional persons, and their families            47.21

Tradesmen and their families                                27.18

               Artisans, Labourers, and their families

A.  Employed in different kinds of trade and handicraft     21.57
common to all places

B.  Employed in the various descriptions of manufacture     19.34
pursued in Sheffield and its neighbourhood

Persons whose condition in life is undescribed              15.04

Paupers in the Workhouse                                    25.51

Farmers and their families                                  37.64

Agricultural Labourers and their families                   30.89

In considering such statistics, the premature death of these poor people
is not the saddest thing which presents itself to us, but the unhealthy,
ineffectual, uncared-for, uncaring life which is the necessary
concommitant of such a rapid rate of mortality.

                                * * * * *

Since the publication of the preceding Essay, Mr. Pusey’s “Poor in
Scotland,” an abstract which has brought the evidence taken before the
Scotch Poor Law Commission within short compass, has been published.
This evidence is of a nature that cannot be passed by.  We may think that
such details are wearisome, but we must listen to them, if we would learn
the magnitude of the evil.  It is no use proceeding without a sufficient
substratum of facts.  Turning then to this abstract, we find one minister
in Edinburgh saying,

    “I visited a part of my parish on Friday last, and in all the houses
    I found persons destitute of food, and completely destitute of fuel;
    without an article of furniture; without beds or bedding, the inmates
    lying on straw.”

Another tells the Commissioners,

    “the allowance generally made, is not sufficient to keep them (the
    outdoor pensioners) in existence at the lowest possible rate of

A third says

    “I have often trembled when I have gone at the call of duty to visit
    the receptacles of wretchedness, because I felt that I could not
    relieve the misery which I must look upon; and in such cases, nothing
    but a sense of duty could compel me to go and visit the poor.”

And a fourth minister mentions that his poor parishioners had stated to

    “that they regarded themselves as outcasts from the sympathy of their

It also appears from Dr. Alison’s evidence that this distress is
increasing.  You read of Glasgow, always fruitful in extreme instances of
misery, that in one of the private poor-houses, 22 children were found,
all afflicted with fever, and occupying a room _about fourteen feet
square_.  The Superintendent of the Glasgow Police, speaking of a
district in the centre of the town, says

    “These places are filled by a population of many thousands of
    miserable creatures.  The houses in which they live are altogether
    unfit for human beings, and every apartment is filled with a
    promiscuous crowd of men, women and children, in a state of filth and
    misery.  In many of the houses there is scarcely any ventilation.
    Dunghills lie in the vicinity of the dwellings, and from the
    extremely defective sewerage, filth of every kind constantly

Touching the immediate object of the enquiry, the relief of paupers, we
find that Humanity having gone with cold and cautious steps (giving 4_s._
a month, sometimes, to fathers and mothers of families) through the
Southern and middle regions of Scotland, becomes in the Highlands nearly
petrified: at “the utmost” is only able to divide amongst “the impotent
poor about 3_s._ 6_d._ a-head for the whole year.”  I dare say many
things may be urged against this, as against all other evidence—a bit
picked off here, another pruned off there—this statement modified, that a
little explained.  Do what you will: this evidence, like that of the
Health of Towns Commission, remains a sad memorial of negligence on the
part of the governing and employing classes.

It may be said that the improvidence of the labouring people themselves
is a large item in the account of the causes of their distress.  I do not
contend that it is not, nor even that it is not the largest; and, indeed,
it would be very rash to assert that this class has, alone, been innocent
of the causes of its own distress.  But whatever part of their
improvidence is something in addition to the improvidence of ordinary
mortals, belongs, I believe, to their want of education and of guidance.
It is, therefore, only putting the matter one step further off, to say
that their distress is mainly caused by their improvidence, when so much
of their improvidence is the fruit of their unguided ignorance.  However
true it may be, that moral remedies are the most wanted, we must not
forget that such remedies can only be worked out by living men; and that
it is to the most educated in heart and mind that we must turn first, to
elicit and to spread any moral regeneration.  Besides, there is a state
of physical degradation, not unfrequent in our lowest classes, where, if
moral good were sown, it could hardly be expected to grow, or even to
maintain its existence.

                                * * * * *

The extracts given in the foregoing pages present some of the salient
points which these new materials afford of the distressed state of the
labouring classes.  It is a part of the subject requiring to be dwelt
upon; for I believe there are many persons in this country who, however
cultivated in other respects, are totally unaware of the condition of
that first material of a state, the labouring population, aye even of
that portion of it within a few streets of their own residences.

Indeed, everybody is likely at some time or other to have great doubts
about this distress which is so much talked of.  We walk through the
metropolis in the midst of activity and splendour: we go into the country
and see there a healthful and happy appearance as we pass briskly along:
and we naturally think that there must be great exaggeration in what we
have heard about the distressed condition of the people.  But we forget
that Misery is a most shrinking unobtrusive creature.  It cowers out of
sight.  We may walk along the great thoroughfares of life without seeing
more than the distorted shadow of it which mendicancy indicates.  A
little thought, however, will soon bring the matter home to us.  It has
been remarked of some great town, that there are as many people living
there in courts and cellars, or at least in the state of destitution
which that mode of life would represent, as the whole adult male
population of London, above the rank of labourers, artisans, and
tradesmen.  Probably we should form the most inadequate estimate of this
court and cellar population, even after a long sojourn in the town.  Now
ponder over the fact.  Think of all the persons in London coming within
the above description whom you know by sight.  Think how small a part
that is of the class in question, how you pass by throngs of men in that
rank every day without recognizing a single person.  Then reflect that a
number of people as great as the whole of this class may be found in one
town exhausting the dregs of destitution.  When we have once appreciated
the matter rightly, the difficulty of discerning, from casual inspection,
the amount of distress, will only seem to us an additional element of
misfortune.  We shall perceive in this quiescence and obscurity only
another cause of regret and another incitement to exertion.


Having now made ourselves to some extent aware of the distress existing
amongst the labouring classes, we will consider the main branches of
physical improvement discussed in the Health of Towns Report.


I put this first, being convinced that it is the most essential.  It is
but recently that any of us have approximated to a right appreciation of
the value of pure air.  But look for a moment at one of those great
forest trees; and then reflect that all that knotted and gnarled bulk has
been mainly formed out of air.  We, in our gross conceptions, were wont
to think that the fatness of the earth was the tree’s chief source of
nourishment.  But it is not so.  In some cases this is almost perceptible
to the eye, for we see the towering pine springing from a soil manifestly
of the scantiest nutritive power.  When we once apprehend how large a
constituent part, air is, of bodies inanimate and animate, of our own for
instance, we shall be more easily convinced of the danger of living in an
impure atmosphere.

And whether it agree with our preconceived notions or not, the evidence
on this point is quite conclusive.  The volumes of the Health of Towns
Report teem with instances of the mischief of insufficient ventilation.
It is one body of facts moving in one uniform direction.  Dr. Guy noticed
that, in a building where there was a communication between the stories,
disease increased in regular gradations, floor by floor, as the air was
more and more vitiated, the employment of the men being the same.  But it
is needless to quote instances of what is so evident.  With respect to
the remedies, these are as simple as the evils to be cured are great.
For instance, there was a lodging house in Glasgow where fever resided;
“but by making an opening from the top of each room, through a channel of
communication to an air pump, common to all the channels, the disease
disappeared altogether.”  Other modes of ventilation are suggested in the
Report; and one very simple device introduced by Mr. Toynbee, a
perforated zinc plate fixed in the window-pane furthest from the fire or
the bed, has been found of signal benefit.  I shall take another
opportunity of saying more upon the subject of ventilation.  Of all the
sanitary remedies, it is the most in our power.  And I am inclined to
believe that half per cent. of the annual outlay of London, that is ten
shillings in every hundred pounds, spent only for one year in
improvements connected with ventilation, would diminish the sickness of
London by one fourth.


Melancholy as the state of this department is shown to be; destructive
annually, I fear, of thousands of lives; it is almost impossible not to
be amused at the grotesque absurdity with which it has been managed.  One
can imagine how Swift might have introduced the subject in Grildrig’s
conversations with the King of Brobdingnag.  “The King asked me more
about our ‘dots’ of houses, as his Majesty was pleased to call them; and
how we removed the scum and filth from those little ‘ant-heaps’ which we
called great towns.  I answered that our custom was to have a long brick
tube, which we called a sewer, in the middle of our streets, where we
kept a sufficient supply of filth till it fermented, and the foul air was
then distributed by gratings at short intervals all over the town. {202}
I also told his Majesty, that to superintend these tubes, we chose men
not from any particular knowledge of the subject, which was extremely
difficult, but impartially, as one may say; and that the opinions of
these men were final, and the laws by which they acted irrevocable.  I
also added that if we had adopted the mode of making these tubes which
our philosophers would have recommended, (but that we were a practical
people) we might have saved in a few years a quarter of a million of our
golden coins.  ‘Spangles,’ said His Majesty, who had lately seen me
weighing one of the golden likenesses of our beloved Queen against a
Brobdingnag spangle that had fallen from the dress of some maid of
honour.  Spangles or not, I replied, they were very dear to us, dearer
than body and soul to some, so that we were wont to say when a man died,
that he died ‘worth so much,’ by which we meant so many gold coins or
spangles, at which His Majesty laughed heartily.  I then went on to tell
the King, of our river Thames, that it was wider than His Majesty could
stride, that we were very proud of it, and drank from it, and that all
these tubes led into it, and their contents were washed to and fro by the
tide before the city; and, then, my good Glumdalclitch seeing that I had
talked a long time and was much wearied, took me up and put me into my
box and carried me away.  But not before I had heard the King speak of my
dear country in a way which gave me great pain.  ‘Insufferable little
wretches,’ His Majesty was pleased to say, ‘as foolish when they are
living at peace at home as when they are going out to kill other little
creatures abroad,’ with more that was like this, and not fit for me to

In sober seriousness, this subject of sewerage has been most absurdly
neglected.  I do not blame any particular class or body of men.
Parliament has been repeatedly applied to in the matter, but nothing has
been done, as it was a subject of no public interest, though it is
probable, if the truth were known, that in those Sessions in which the
subject was mooted, there were few questions of equal significance before
the House.  There are excellent suggestions in the Health of Towns Report
for improvement in the original construction of sewers, for their
ventilation, for their being flushed, for making the curves at which the
side sewers ought to be connected with the main trunks, for a better
system of house drainage, respecting which Mr. Dyce Guthrie has given
most valuable evidence, for the doing away with unnecessary gully drains,
and for conducting all the contents of these sewers, not into our much
loved river, but far away from the town, where they can do no mischief,
and will be of some use.  This is not a simple matter like ventilation;
and what is proposed involves large undertakings.  Still it is of immense
and growing importance, and should be resolutely begun at once, seeing
that every day adds to the difficulty which will have to be overcome.


This is an essential part of any large system of sanitary improvement,
and one that does not present very great difficulty.  The principal facts
which I collect from the Report are, that the expense of transmission is
inconsiderable, and consequently that we may have water from a distant
source; that the plan of constant supply seems to be the best; that this
constant supply, under a high pressure, could be thrown over the highest
buildings in case of fire, that it could be used for baths, public
fountains, and watering and cleansing streets; that it could be supplied
at 1_d._ or 1½_d._ a week to the houses of the poor, and for this that
they might have any quantity they chose to take.  At present the labour
of bringing water entirely prevents cleanliness in many of the more
squalid parts of the town: and the advantage of a constant and unlimited
supply would be almost incalculable.  There appears to be some difficulty
in applying the principle of competition to the supply of water; for the
multiplication of water companies has in some instances only produced
mischief to the public.  I would suggest to the political economist
whether there may not be some spheres too limited for competition.  But
these are questions which I cannot afford at present to dwell upon.


In considering this branch of the subject, the first thing that occurs is
the absolute necessity of getting sufficient space to build upon.  Other
improvements may follow; but almost all of them will be defective, if
this primary requisite be wanting.  Hence it is of such importance to
combat the notion that people must live near their work.  It is a great
convenience, no doubt.  But the question is not of living near their
work, but of dying, or being perpetually ill, near it.  Mr. Holland has
made a calculation from which it appears, that in some parts of the town
of Chorlton-upon-Medlock, in a family of five individuals, “there will be
on the average about 50 days a year more sickness _due to the insalubrity
of the dwellings_.”  To avoid this additional illness, it is surely worth
while for working men to live even at a considerable distance from their
work.  Indeed I think two or three miles is not such a distance as should
prevent them.  Besides, is it not probable that, in many instances, the
work would come to them?

Supposing that new building takes place, whether from the poorer classes
tending more to the suburban districts, or from the dense parts of towns
being rebuilt, much might be done by modifying, if not repealing, the
window tax and the tax on bricks.

With respect to the next point, the laying out of the ground, there are
most valuable suggestions given by Mr. Austin in the Health of Towns
Report.  The result of his evidence is, that the average rental paid now
in Snow’s Fields, a place which I have endeavoured to make the reader
acquainted with before, would return upwards of 10 per cent. upon money
laid out in making a substantial set of buildings to occupy the place of
the present hovels; and that these new houses should have “every
structural arrangement requisite to render them healthy and comfortable
dwellings.”  I have only to add on this subject, that it would be of the
utmost advantage in any new buildings, and especially for small houses,
likely to be built by small capitalists, that there should be a survey
made of every town, and its suburbs, with ‘contours of equal altitude.’
{209}  As things are managed at present, people building without any
reference to a general scale, or any connexion with each other (the
non-interference principle carried to its utmost length) the greatest
difficulties in the way of sanitary improvement are introduced where
there need have been none.

                                * * * * *

The main branches of sanitary improvement touched upon by the Report are
enumerated above.  There are, however, some general results and
principles which demand our especial attention.

In the first place it seems to be universally true that economy goes hand
in hand with sanitary improvement.  So beneficently is the physical world
constructed, that our labour for sanitary ends is eminently productive.
The order of Providence points out that men should live in cleanliness
and comfort which we laboriously and expensively contravene.  In the
Appendix I subjoin a table drawn up by Mr. Clay, showing in detail the
saving produced by sanitary measures.  I may notice, as bearing on the
point of economy, that there is concurrent evidence showing an excessive
rate of mortality to be accompanied by excessive reproduction.
Consequently, the result of the present defective state of sanitary
arrangements is, that a disproportionate number of sickly and helpless
persons of all ages, but chiefly children, are thrown upon the state to
be provided for.  If this were to occur in a small community it would be
fatal.  In a great state it is not more felt than a calamitous war, or an
adverse commercial treaty.  But it requires a continued attention as
great as that which those more noisy calamities are able to ensure for
themselves while they are in immediate agitation.

Secondly, it is stated that the seats of disease are the seats of crime,
a result that we should naturally expect.

                                * * * * *

Again, it appears from many instances that what we are wont to call the
improvements in great towns are apt to be attended by an increase of
discomfort to the poor.  To them, the opening of thoroughfares through
densely crowded districts, in the displacement which it creates, is an
immediate aggravation of distress.  Considering this, ought we not to
endeavour that improvements for the rich and the poor should go on
simultaneously?  It is a hard measure to destroy any considerable
quantity of house property appropriated to the working classes, and
thereby to raise their rents and densify their population, without making
any attempt to supply the vacuum thus created in that market.

                                * * * * *

It is stated by Dr. Arnott “that nearly half of the accidental illnesses
that occur among the lower classes might be prevented by proper public
management:” a statement which the general body of evidence, I think,
confirms.  Now, consider this result.  Think what one night of high fever
is: then think that numbers around you are nightly suffering this, from
causes which the most simple sanitary regulations would obviate at once.
When you are wearied with statistical details, vexed with the difficulty
of trying to make men do any thing for themselves, disgusted with
demagogues playing upon the wretchedness of the poor, then think of some
such signal fact as this; and you will cheerfully, again, gird up
yourself to fight, as heretofore, against evils which are not to be
conquered without many kinds of endurance as well as many forms of

I do not wish to raise a senseless moan over human suffering.  Pain is to
be borne stoutly, nor always looked on with unfriendly eye.  But surely
we need not create it in this wholesale fashion; and then say that that
which is a warning and a penalty, is but wholesome discipline, to be
regarded with Mussulman indifference.

                                * * * * *

I come now to what seems to me the most important result obtained in the
whole course of the elaborate evidence taken before the Health of Towns
Commission.  It appears not only that distress can exist with a high rate
of wages, without apparently any fault on the part of the sufferers;
{214a} but, actually, that in some instances, _there is an increase of
sickness with an increase of wages_. {214b}  The medical officer of the
Spitalfields’ District states that the weavers have generally less fever
when they are out of work.  This statement is confirmed by testimony of a
like nature from Paisley, Glasgow, and Manchester.  It is one of the most
significant facts that has struggled into upper air.  We talk of the
increase of the wealth of nations—it may be attended by an increase of
misery and mortality, and the production of additional thousands of
unhealthy, parentless, neglected human beings.  It may only lead to a
larger growth of human weeds.  The explanation of the matter is simple.
Dr. Southwood Smith tells us that “Fever is the disease of adolescence
and manhood.”  Now, wretched as the dwelling houses of the poor are,
_their places of work are frequently still worse_. {215a}  Consequently,
with an increase of work, there comes an increase of fever from working
in ill-ventilated rooms, an increase of poor-rates, {215b} and an
especial increase of orphanage and widowhood, as the fever chiefly seizes
upon persons in the prime of life.  And a large part of this increase is
thus distinctly brought home to neglect, or ignorance, on the part of the
employers of labour.  Surely, as soon as they are made cognizant of this
matter, they will at once hasten to correct it.  In the appendix to this
work there is a letter from Dr. Arnott, giving an account of the causes
of defective ventilation, and the remedies for it.  We can no longer say
that the evil is one which requires more knowledge than we possess to
master it.  Science, which cannot hitherto be said to have done much for
the poor, now comes to render them signal service.  It is for us to use
the knowledge, thus adapted to our hands, for a purpose which Bacon
describes as one of the highest ends of all knowledge, “the relief of
man’s estate.”  Consider the awful possibility that we may at some future
time fully appreciate the results of our doings upon earth.  Imagine an
employer of labour having before him, in one picture as it were, groups
of wretched beings, followed by a still more deteriorated race, with
their vices and their sufferings expressed in some material, palpable
form—all his own handiwork in it brought out—and at the end, to console
him, some heaps of money.  If he had but a vision of these things by
night, while yet on earth, such an all-embracing vision as comes upon a
drowning man!  Then imagine him to awake to life.  You would not then
find that he knew methods of ensuring to his workmen fresh air, but
lacked energy, or care, to adventure any thing for them.  Talk not to me
of money, he would say—Money-making may be one of the conditions of
continuance in this matter that I have taken in hand, but on no account
the one great object.  Indeed, if a man cannot make some good fabric by
good means, he would perform a nobler part, as Mr. Carlyle would tell us,
in retiring from the contest, and saying at once that the nature of
things is too hard for him.  He is far, far, better conquered in that
way, than obstructing the road by work badly done, or adding to the
world’s difficulties by inhumanity.

What I have given is but an outline of the Health of Towns Report; and I
would fain persuade my readers to turn to the original itself.  Some
delight in harrowing tales of fiction: here are scenes indicated, if not
absolutely depicted, which may exercise the tenderest sympathies.  Others
are ever bending over the pages of history: here, in these descriptions
of the life of the poor, are sources of information respecting the
well-being of nations, which history, much given to tell only of the
doings of the great, has been strangely silent upon.  For the man of
science, for the moral philosopher, or even for the curious observer of
the ways of the world, this Report is full of interesting materials.  But
it is not as a source of pleasurable emotion that our attention should be
called to it.  It is because without the study of such works, we cannot
be sure of doing good in the matter.  If there is anything that requires
thought and experience, it is the exercise of Charity in such a
complicated system as modern life.  Indeed, there is scarcely anything to
be done wisely in it without knowledge.  And I believe it would be
better, for instance, that people should read this Health of Towns
Report, than that they should subscribe liberally to carrying out even
those suggestions which are recommended by men who have thought upon
these subjects.  There is no end to the quickening power of knowledge;
but mere individual, rootless acts of benevolence are soon added up.

There is not the less necessity for this knowledge, because public
attention is in some measure awakened to the duties of the employers of
labour.  I do not know a more alarming sight than a number of people
rushing to be benevolent without thought.  In any general impulse, there
are at least as many thoughtless as wise persons excited by it: the
latter may be saved from doing very foolish things by an instinct of
sagacity; but for the great mass of mankind, the facts require to be
clearly stated and the inferences carefully drawn for them, if they are
to be prevented from wasting their benevolent impulses upon foolish or
mischievous undertakings.


Certainly, whether built upon sufficient information or not, there is at
the present time a strong feeling that something must be done to improve
the condition of the labouring classes.  The question is, how to direct
this feeling—where to urge, where to restrain it; and to what to limit
its exertions.  An inane desire for originality in such matters is wholly
to be discouraged.  People must not dislike taking up what others have
begun.  Of the various modes of improving the sanitary condition of the
labouring classes, each has some peculiar claim.  Ventilation is so easy,
and at the same time so effective, that it seems a pity not to begin at
once upon that.  Again, structural arrangements connected with the
sewerage of great towns are pressing matters, because, like the purchase
of the Sybil’s books, you have less for your money, the longer you delay.
These two things and the supply of water seem to me the first points to
be attacked; but a prudent man will endeavour to fall in with what others
are doing, if it coincides with his direction, and he can thereby hasten
on, not exactly his own methods, but the main result which he has in

There is one conclusion which most persons who have thought on these
subjects seem inclined to come to—namely, that a Department of Public
Health is imperatively wanted, as the duties to be performed in this
respect are greater than can be thrown upon the Home Secretary.  I
venture to suggest one or two things which it might be well to consider
in the formation of such a Department.  It should not be a mere Medical
Board under one of the great branches of the Executive; but an entirely
independent Department.  It will thus have a much firmer voice in
Parliament, and elsewhere.  Scientific knowledge, as well as legal and
medical, should be at its daily command.  I lay much stress upon the
first, and for this reason.  Medical men, who are not especially
scientific, are apt, I suspect, to be “shut up in measureless content”
with the old ways of going on.  Their knowledge becomes stereotyped.  And
as, in such a Department, the aid of the latest discoveries is wanted, it
is better to rely upon those whose especial business it is to be
acquainted with them.  All departments and institutions are liable to
become hardened, and to lose their elasticity.  It is particularly
desirable that this should be avoided in a Department for the Public
Health; and, therefore, great care should be taken in the constitution of
it, to ensure sufficient vitality, and admit sufficient variety of
opinion, or it would be better to trust to getting each special work done
by new hands.  The change of political chiefs, a thing frequent enough in
modern times, will ensure some of that diversity of mind which is one of
the main inducements for lodging power in a Commission or a Board.

It is a great question what authority should be entrusted by this central
body to Municipalities or local bodies.  They should certainly have the
utmost that can discreetly be given to them.  It does not do to say that,
hitherto, they have been totally blind to their duty in this matter.  So
have other people been.  The great principle of an admixture of
centralization with local authority should not be lost sight of without
urgent reasons.  That any reform should be undertaken in sanitary
measures betokens an improved state of moral feeling.  The feeling
amongst the most influential classes which produces the legislative
reform may be expected to go lower down—indeed, the reform has already,
in all probability, found some of its most useful supporters in a lower
class—and therefore we may expect to find fit persons to work in the
lower executive departments.  It is not fair to go back and assume that
the old state of feeling exists—in fact, that the parchment law is
changed, and not the people.  This might be so in a despotic government,
but not here.  It is an oversight, when, in such cases, a general
improvement is not calculated upon.

One of the first things that might be attempted in the legislative way is
Smoke Prohibition.  It is exactly a matter for the interference of the
state.  The Athenian in the comedy, wearied of war, concludes a separate
peace with the enemy for himself, his wife, his children, and his
servant; and forthwith raises a jovial stave to Bacchus.  Now all
sensible people would not only be glad to enter into amicable relations
with Smoke, but would even be content to pay a good sum for protection
against the incursions from factory chimnies and other nuisances in their
neighbourhood.  But there is no possibility of making such private
treaties.  The common undistinguishable air is vitiated: and we ask the
State, for the sake of the common weal, to see this matter righted.  It
has been long before the public; and there is sufficient evidence to
legislate at once upon.  At any rate, if Mr. Mackinnon’s bill is referred
to a Committee, it ought to be upon the understanding that the
suggestions of the Committee shall be forthwith and earnestly considered,
with a view to instant legislation.  If the Committee were to make an
excursion into the smoke-manufacturing parts of the Metropolis, they
would see here and there factory chimnies from which less smoke issues
than from private houses.  This seems to be conclusive.  They will not
find, I think, that these smokeless chimnies belong to unimportant
factories.  Now, if the nuisance can be cured in one case, why not in
all?  Here we have new and stately public buildings, in the East and the
West of the town, which only a few of us, for a short time, will see in
their pristine purity.  If we cannot appreciate the mischief which this
smoke does to ourselves, let us have some regard for the public
buildings.  Consider, too, at what an immense outlay we purchase this
canopy of smoke.  Certainly at hundreds of thousands a year in London
alone.  We have, therefore, made an investment in smoke of some millions
of money.  If we had but the resources to spend upon public improvements,
which have thus been worse than wasted, we should need no other
contribution.  Moreover, the proposed restrictions in the case of smoke
would not only be beneficial to the public, but profitable to the
individual: and the more one considers the subject, the more astonished
one is, that they should not long ago have been enacted.

But the truth is, we are quite callous to nuisances.  A public prosecutor
of nuisances is more wanted than a public prosecutor of crime.  And this
is one of the things that would naturally come under the supervision of a
Department of Health.  I find, from the Health of Towns Report, that it
is proposed to permit the continuance of sundry noxious trades in London
for thirty years, and then they are to be carried on under certain
restrictions.  It cannot be said that this is selfish legislation: the
present generation may inhale its fill of gas and vitriol; but our
grandchildren will imbibe “under certain restrictions” only that quantity
which is requisite to balance the pleasures of a city life.  At Lyons
there is a long line of huge stumps of trees bordering on the river.  The
traveller, naturally enough, supposes that this is the record of some
civil commotion; but, on inquiry, he finds that the fumes of an adjacent
vitriol manufactory have in their silent way levelled these magnificent
trees as completely as if it had been done by the most effective
cannonade.  If we could but see in some such palpable manner how many
human beings are stunted by these nuisances, we should proceed in their
expulsion with somewhat of the vigour which it deserves.  Imagine, if
only for one day, we could enjoy a more than lynx-like faculty, and could
see, not merely through rocks, but into air, what an impressive sight it
would be in this Metropolis.  Here, a heavy layer of carbonic acid gas
from our chimnies—there, an uprising of sulphuretted hydrogen from our
drains—and the noxious breath of many factories visible in all its
varieties of emanation.  After one such insight, we should need no more
Sanitary Reports to stimulate our exertions.  But it is only our want of
imagination that prevents us from apprehending now the state of the
atmosphere.  Science demonstrates the presence of all that I have
pictured, and far more.

Great resistance might, perhaps, be made, if large measures were to be
taken for the removal of noxious trades from great towns.  In many cases,
where rapid measures would be harsh and unjust, it would be well worth
while for the community to buy the absence of these unpleasant
neighbours, resolutely shutting the gates against the incoming of any
similar nuisances for the future.  On the other hand, mere clamour about
the rights of property and the injustice of interference must be firmly
resisted.  This clamour has been made in all times.  Indeed, men seldom
raise a more indignant outcry than when they are prevented from doing
some injury to their neighbours.  How the feudal barons must have chafed,
when deprived of the right of hanging in their own baronies: how cruel it
doubtless seemed to the monopolists of olden times, when some “factious”
House of Commons summoned to its bar the Sir Giles Overreaches, and made
them disgorge their plunder; how planters in all climes storm, if you but
touch the question of loosening the fetters of their slaves.  And so, in
these minor matters, when the community, at last awake to its interest,
forbids some injurious practice to go on any longer, it is natural that
those who have profited by it, and who, blinded by self-interest, still
share the former inertness of the public, should find it hard to submit
quietly and good-naturedly to have any restrictive regulations put upon
their callings.  And where the public can smooth this in any way, they
ought to do so; not grudging even large outlay, so that the nuisances in
question be speedily and effectually removed.  The money spent by the
community on sanitary purposes is likely to be the most reproductive part
of its expenditure, and especially beneficial to the poorer classes who,
for the most part, live near these nuisances, and have few means of
resisting their noxious influence.

                                * * * * *

After discussing what might be done by legislation, we come naturally to
consider what might be done by Associations for benevolent purposes.
However inadequate such Associations may be as an equivalent for
individual exertion, there are, doubtless, many occasions on which they
may come in most effectively; doing that which individuals can hardly
undertake.  In London, for instance, an association that would give us an
elaborate Survey of the town, would accomplish a most benevolent purpose,
and not be in any danger of interfering unwisely with social relations.
The same may be said of our other towns, for, I believe, there is not one
of them possessing a Survey fit to be used for building and sanitary
improvements.  Again, there are certain fields at Battersea at present
unbuilt upon, close to the river, one of those spots near the metropolis
that ought to be secured at once for purposes of public health and
amusement: if a Society will do that for us, they will accomplish a noble
work.  Happily, the necessity for public parks is beginning to be
appreciated.  These are the fortifications which we should make about our
towns.  Would that, on every side of the Metropolis, we could see such
scenes as this so touchingly described by Goethe.

    “Turn round, and from this height look back upon
    The town: from its black dungeon gate forth pours,
    In thousand parties, the gay multitude,
    All happy, all indulging in the sunshine!
    All celebrating the Lord’s resurrection,
    And in themselves exhibiting, as ’twere
    A resurrection too—so changed are they,
    So raised above themselves.  From chambers damp
    Of poor mean houses—from consuming toil
    Laborious—from the work-yard and the shop—
    From the imprisonment of walls and roofs,
    And the oppression of confining streets,
    And from the solemn twilight of dim churches—
    All are abroad—all happy in the sun.”

                                                         _Anster’s Faust_.

Many other excellent enterprises might be suggested which societies are
peculiarly fitted to undertake.  I must own that I think they are best
occupied in such matters as will not require perpetual looking after,
which when they are once done are wholly done, such as the formation of a
park, the making of a survey, the collection of materials for a
legislative measure, and the like.  These bodies are called in for an
exigency, and we should be able to contemplate a time when their
functions will cease; or at least when their main work will be done.

Other limits in their choice of objects might be suggested.  For
instance, it is desirable that they should address themselves, in
preference, to such purposes as may benefit people indirectly; or such as
concern the public as a body rather than distressed individuals of the
public; or that aim at supplying wants which the people benefited are not
likely in the first instance to estimate themselves.  Such is the supply
of air, light, and the means of cleanliness.  There is small danger of
corrupting industry by giving any extent of facilities for washing. {233}

While we are on this subject, we must not pass over the societies which
have started up in connexion with our immediate object.  These “Baths and
Washhouses for the Poor” are an admirable charity, obvious to very little
of the danger which is apt to threaten benevolent undertakings.  It
would, however, be a most serious drawback on their utility, if they were
to render people indifferent to the much greater scheme of giving a
constant supply of water at home.  With respect to the building
associations for the improvement of the houses of the poor, their
efforts, as it seems to me, will be most advantageously directed, not in
building houses, but in buying and preparing ground, and letting it out
to the individual builder upon conditions compelling the desired
structural arrangements.  In this way they may immensely extend the
sphere of their usefulness.  It is not by limiting their profit, and so
insisting upon proving their benevolence, but by giving birth to the
greatest amount of beneficial exertion on the part of individuals, that
they may do most good.

                                * * * * *

We come now to consider what may be done by individual exertion.  Here it
is, that by far the largest field is open for endeavour: here, that
neglect is most injurious.  Many a man who subscribes largely to
charities, has created more objects for them, than he has furnished them
with means to relieve, if he has neglected but a little his duties as an
employer of labour, or an owner of property.  This mischief arises from
considering charity as something separated from the rest of our
transactions; whereas a wise man weaves it in with them, and finds the
first exercise for it in matters that grow out of his nearest social
relations, as parent, master of a household, employer of labour, and the

The more we look into the question, the more weight, I think, we shall
attach to individual exertion.  Take it in all its branches.  Consider
the most remarkable impulse ever given to the energies of Europe—the
Crusades.  It was an aggregate of individual impulses.  Every strong and
enterprising man felt that it was a matter which concerned his own soul.
It was not only that he was to cause something to be done for the great
object, but, if possible, he was to do it himself.  A Crusade against
Misery is called for now; and it will only be carried on successfully by
there being many persons who are ready to throw their own life and energy
into the enterprise.  Mere mercenary aid alone will never do it.

Look, moreover, at what one man can do.  A Chatham springs into power,
and we are told that down to the lowest depths of office a pulsation is
felt which shows that there is a heart once more at the summit of
affairs.  The distant sentinel walks with a firmer tread on the banks of
the Ebro, having heard that the Duke has arrived at head quarters.  So,
throughout.  Every where you find individual energy the sustaining power.
See, in public offices, how it is the two or three efficient men who
carry on the business.  It is when some individuals subscribe largely in
time, thought, and energy, to any benevolent association that it is most
like to prosper—for then it most resembles one powerful devoted man.  The
adding up of many men’s indolence will not do.  You think, perhaps,
listless man of rank or wealth, that your order sustains you.  Short time
would it do so, but for the worthy individuals who belong to it, and who,
at the full length of the lever, are able to sustain a weight which would
throw the worthless, weightless men into air in a minute.

In the above cases it has been one man wielding much power; but in the
efforts that are wanted to arrest the evils which we have been
considering, the humblest amongst us has a large sphere of action.  A
provident labouring man, for example, is a blessing to his family and to
his neighbours; and is thus doing what he best can, to relieve even
national distress.

It is a total mistake to bring, as it were, all the misery and misfortune
together, and say, now find me a remedy large as the evil, to meet it.
Resolve the evil into its original component parts.  Imagine that there
had been no such thing as the squandering, drinking, absentee Irish
landlords we read of in the last generation—do you suppose that we should
have as many inhabitants in St. Giles’s, and the Liverpool cellars, to
look after now?  So, with the English landlords and manufacturers of that
time, see what a subtraction from the general mass of difficult material
there would have been, if those men had done their duty.  But you will
say we are still talking of bodies.  Imagine, then, that during the last
generation there had been the energetic efforts of individuals in these
bodies, that there are now, directed to the welfare of the people under
them.  It would, no doubt, have been a great easement of the present
difficulty.  Any body who does his duty to his dependents keeps a certain
number out of the vortex; and his example is nearly sure to be followed,
if he acts in an inoffensive, modest fashion.  Dr. Arnott has shown what
great things may be done in the way of ventilation by individual
employers.  See what benefit would arise if only some few builders,
taking to heart the present miserable accommodation for the poor, which
few know better than they do, would, in their building enterprises,
speculate also in houses of the smaller kind, and take a pride in doing
the utmost for them.

One might easily multiply instances where individual exertion would come
in; but each man must in some measure find out the fit sphere of action
for him.  “The Statesman” tells us that the real wealth of a state is the
number of “serviceable” minds in it.  The object of a good citizen should
be to make himself part of this wealth.  Let him aid where he can in
benevolent associations, if well assured of their utility, and at the
same time mindful of the duty of private endeavour; but do not let him
think that he is to wait for the State’s interference, or for
co-operation of any kind.  I do not say that such aids are to be
despised, but that they are not to be waited for, and that the means of
social improvement are in every body’s hands.  For warfare, men are
formed in masses, and scientific arrangement is the soul of their
proceedings.  But industrial conquests and, especially, the conquests of
benevolence, are often made, here somewhat and there somewhat, individual
effort struggling up in a thousand free ways.

                                * * * * *

The individual freedom which we possess is a great reason for individual
exertion.  How large that freedom is, it needs but a slight acquaintance
with the past to estimate.  Through what ages have we not toiled to the
conviction that people should not be burnt for their opinions.  The
lightest word about dignities, the slightest claim to freedom of thought
or speech upon those matters which, perhaps, angelic natures would hardly
venture to pronounce upon, even the wayward play of morbid imagination,
were not unlikely in former times to lead to signal punishments.  A man
might almost in his sleep commit treason, or heresy, or witchcraft.  The
most cautious, official-spoken man amongst us, if carried back on a
sudden to the days of Henry the Eighth, would, at the end of the first
week, be pursued by a general hue and cry from the authorities, civil and
ecclesiastical, for his high and heinous words against King, Church, and
State.  While now, Alfred Tennyson justly describes our country as

    “The land, where girt with friends or foes,
    A man may say the thing he will.”

There is danger of our losing this freedom if we neglect the duties which
it imposes.  But I have resolved to avoid dwelling upon dangers, and
would rather appeal to other motives.  The triumph for a nation so
individually free as ours, would be to show that the possible benefits of
despotism belonged to it—that there should be paternal government without
injurious control—that those things should ultimately be attained by the
exertions of many which a despot can devise and execute at once, but
which his successor may, with like facility, efface.  Whereas what is
gained for many by many, is not easily got back.  It must be vast
embankments indeed which could compel that sea to give up its conquests.

                                * * * * *

We have now gone through the principal means by which social remedies may
be effected: there comes the consideration within what limits these means
should be applied.  The subject of interference is a most difficult one.
We are greatly mistaken, however, if we suppose that the difficulty is
confined to Government interference.  Who does not know of extreme
mischief arising from over-guidance in social relations as well as in
state affairs?  The inherent difficulty with respect to any interference,
is a matter which we have to get over in innumerable transactions
throughout our lives.  The way in which, as before said, it appears to me
it should be met, is principally by enlightenment as to the purposes of
interference.  Look at the causes which are so often found to render
interference mischievous.  The governing power is anxious to exalt
itself; instead of giving life and energy, wishes only to absorb them.
Or it is bent upon having some outward thing done, careless of the
principles on which it is done, or of the mode and spirit of doing it.
Hence, in public affairs, things may be carried which have only a show of
goodness, but in reality are full of danger; and in private life, there
arise formality, hypocrisy, and all kinds of surface actions.  Or, again,
the governing power is fond of much and minute interference, instead of,
as Burke advises, employing means “few, unfrequent, and strong.”  There
may also be another error, when from over-tenderness, or want of
knowledge, the authority in question suffers those under its influence to
lean on it, when they are strong enough to walk by themselves.  All these
errors are general ones, which require to be guarded against in the
education of a child, as well as in the government of a state.  All of
them, too, have their root in an insufficient appreciation of the value
of free effort.  But when this is once attained, the interfering party
will see that his efforts should mainly be enabling ones: that he may
come as an ally to those engaged in a contest too great for their
ability; but that he is not to weaken prowess by unneeded meddling.  It
may be said that this is vague.  I am content to be vague upon a point
where, I believe, the greatest thinkers will be very cautious of laying
down precise rules.  Look at what Burke says with regard to state
interference—that it should confine itself to what is “truly and properly
publick, to the publick peace, to the publick safety, to the publick
order, to the publick prosperity.”  How large a scope do those words
“publick prosperity” afford.  Besides, the transactions, in which we want
to ascertain just limits for our interference, are so numerous, and so
various, that they are not to be met but by an inconceivable multiplicity
of rules.  Such rules may embody much experience, but they seldom exhaust
the subject which they treat of; and there is the danger of our suffering
them to enslave, instead of merely to guide, our judgments.  And then, on
some critical occasion, when the exception, and not the rule, is in
accordance with the principle on which the rule has been formed, we may
commit the greatest folly in keeping to what we fancy the landmarks of
sagacity and experience.  Instead, therefore, of laying down any abstract
rules, I will only observe that a primâ facie reluctance to all
interference is most reasonable, and perhaps as necessary in the social
world, as friction is in the physical world, in order to prevent every
unguided impulse from having its full mechanical effect: that,
nevertheless, interference must often be resorted to: and that the best
security for acting wisely in any particular case, is not to suffer
ourselves to be narrowly circumscribed by rules, but at the same time to
be very cautious of attempting any mere present good, of getting notions
of our own rapidly carried into action, at the expense of that freedom
and moral effort which are the surest foundations of all progress.

                                * * * * *

We were considering, above, the claim which our individual freedom makes
on our individual exertion for the good of others.  But this freedom must
in some degree be limited in order to produce its best results; and
amongst them, to secure the greatest amount of such individual exertion.
We know the restraint that must exist upon all, if all are to enjoy equal
freedom.  The freedom of one is not to be a terror to another.  Law is
based upon this obvious principle.  But there are other circumstances
also, in which individuals will find support and comfort in the general
freedom being circumscribed by some interference on the part of the state
or other bodies.  Such a case occurs when the great majority of some
class of private individuals would willingly submit to wise regulations
for the general good, but cannot do so without great sacrifice, because
of the selfish recusancy of some few amongst them.  Here is a juncture at
which the State might interfere to enable individuals to carry out their
benevolent intentions.  But one of the main reasons for some degree of
interference from the State or other authorized bodies, in matters
connected with our present subject, is that, otherwise, the
responsibilities of individuals would be left overwhelming.  It is to be
remembered by those who would restrain such interference within the
narrowest possible bounds, that they by so much increase individual
responsibility.  Responsibility can, happily, by no scheme, be made to
vanish.  Wherever a signal evil exists, a duty lies somewhere to attack
it.  Suppose a district, for instance, in which the state of mortality is
excessive, a mortality clearly traceable to the want of sanitary
regulations.  In a despotic government it may be enough to mention this
to the central body.  In a free state, where the duties of a citizen come
in, more is required from the individual; and if there is no fit body of
any kind to appeal to in such a case, the burden lies upon all men
acquainted with the facts, to endeavour conjointly, or separately, to
remove the evil.  While, on the one hand, we must beware of introducing
such interference, whether coming from the State or other bodies, as
might paralyse individual exertion, we must at the same time remember
that the weight to be removed may be left overwhelmingly disproportionate
to individual effort, or even to conjoint effort, if unauthorized, both
of which may thus be stiffened by despair into inaction.

In the instance we have just been considering, we must not say that the
people immediately interested in removing the evil will do so themselves.
It is part of the hypothesis that they will not.  Ages have passed by,
and they have not.  They do not know what is evil.  It has been observed
that savages are rarely civilized by efforts of their own.  A vessel from
civilized parts comes and finds them savages.  A generation passes away.
Another vessel comes, how differently propelled, how differently
constructed; manned by sailors who have different costume, food, ways of
speech and habits from the former ones; but they are able to recognize at
once the savages described by their forefathers.  These have not changed.
The account of them is as exact as if it were written yesterday.  In such
a land, we must not look for the germ of improvement amongst the
miserable inhabitants themselves.  It must come from without, brought
thither by hopeful, all-sympathizing enterprize.


Whenever the condition of the labouring people becomes a general topic,
some erroneous modes of discussing it arise which deserve notice.  In the
first place, there is a matter which, in all our friendly efforts for the
working classes, we must not forget, and that is, to make these efforts
with kindliness to other classes.  The abuse of other people is an easy
mode of showing our own benevolence, more easy than profitable.  To
alleviate the distress of the poor may be no gain, if, in the process, we
aggravate the envies and jealousies which may be their especial
temptation.  The spirit to be wished for is sympathy; and that will not
be produced by needless reproaches.  Besides, it is such foolish
injustice to lay the blame of the present state of things on any one
class.  It is unpractical, unphilosophical, and inconsistent with
history.  If we must select any class, do not let us turn to the wealthy,
whom, perhaps, we think of first.  They have, in no time that I am aware
of, been the pre-eminent rulers of the world.  The thinkers and writers,
they are the governing class.  There is no doubt that the rich and great
have in most cases a large sphere of usefulness open to them; and they
are fatally blind, if they neglect it.  That is, however, rather a matter
for them to think of, than for those who are under them.  And I feel
quite certain that the evils we are now, as a nation, beginning to be
sensitive to, are such as may be more fairly attributed to the nation, in
its collective capacity, than to any one class, or even to any one
generation.  I notice the error of the opposite opinion, believing it to
be a signal hindrance to improvement.  Let us not begin a great work with
bitterness.  I am not, however, for the slightest concealment of the
truth, and can well understand the righteous indignation that will break
out at witnessing the instances of careless cruelty to be seen daily.
Still, this is not to be done by a systematic and undistinguishing attack
upon any one class: if it requires a bold hand, it requires a just one
also, under a reasonable restraint of humility.  I suspect that those
men, if any, who have a right to cast the first stone at their neighbour
in this matter will be among the last persons to do so.

It is a grievous thing to see literature made a vehicle for encouraging
the enmity of class to class.  Yet this, unhappily, is not unfrequent
now.  Some great man summed up the nature of French novels by calling
them the Literature of Despair: the kind of writing that I deprecate may
be called the Literature of Envy.  It would be extreme injustice to say
that the writers themselves are actuated by an envious or malignant
spirit.  It is often mere carelessness on their part, or ignorance of the
subject, or a want of skill in representing what they do know.  You would
never imagine from their writings that some of the most self-denying
persons, and of those who exert themselves most for the poor, are to be
found amongst the rich and the well-born, including of course the great
Employers of labour.  Such writers like to throw their influence, as they
might say, into the weaker scale.  But that is not the proper way of
looking at the matter.  Their business is not to balance class against
class, but to unite all classes into one harmonious whole.  I think if
they saw the ungenerous nature of their proceedings, that alone would
stop them.  They should recollect that literature may fawn upon the
masses as well as on the aristocracy: and in these days the temptation is
in the former direction.  But what is most grievous in this kind of
writing, is the mischief it may do to the working people themselves.  If
you have their true welfare at heart, you will not only care for their
being fed and clothed; but you will be anxious not to encourage
unreasonable expectations in them, not to make them ungrateful or
greedy-minded.  Above all, you will be solicitous to preserve some
self-reliance in them.  You will be careful not to let them think that
their condition can be wholly changed without exertion of their own.  You
would not desire to have it so changed.  Once elevate your ideal of what
you wish to happen amongst the labouring population; and you will not
easily admit anything in your writings that may injure their moral or
their mental character, even if you thought it might hasten some physical
benefit for them.  That is the way to make your genius most serviceable
to mankind.  Depend upon it, honest and bold things require to be said to
the lower as well as to the higher classes; and the former are in these
times much less likely to have such things addressed to them.

                                * * * * *

In the same way that we are fond of laying the neglect, and the duty, of
exertion upon some class, even on our own, rather than on our especial
selves, we are much given to look for something new which, in a magical
manner, is to settle the whole difficulty.  But when people look for a
novelty of this kind, what do they mean?  Some moral novelty?  The
Christian religion has been eighteen hundred years before the world, and
have we exhausted the morality in that?  Some political novelty?  We are
surely the nation, whose constitution, whatever may be said against it,
has been most wrought and tempered by diverse thought and action.  Some
novelty in art or science?  Where has man attained to a greater mastery
over matter than in this iron-shearing country?  The utmost that one age
can be expected to do in the way of discovery is but little; and that
little by few men.  Let us sit down and make use of what we have.  The
stock out of which national welfare might be formed lies in huge,
unworked-up masses before us.  Social improvement depends upon general
moral improvement.  Moral improvement mostly comes, and at least is most
safely looked for, not in the way of acquisition but of development.
Now, as regards the conduct of the various classes of the state to each
other, we do not want any new theory about it, but only to develop that
kindly feeling which is already in the world between like and like, which
makes a parent, for instance, so kind even to the faults of his children.
We want that feeling carried over all the obstructions of imperfect
sympathy which hedge it in now.  This will be done by both classes
knowing more of each other.  One of the great reasons for the education
of the people is, that even educating them a little enables rich and poor
to understand each other better—in fact, to live more harmoniously
together.  If our sympathies were duly enlightened and enlarged, we
should find that we did not need one doctrine for our conduct to friends,
another for our conduct to dependents, and another for our conduct to
neighbours.  One spirit would suffice to guide us rightly in all these
relations.  The uninstructed man looking around him on the universe, and
seeing a wonderful variety of appearances, is inclined to imagine that
there are numberless laws and substances essentially different, little
knowing from how few of either the profusion of beauty in the world is
formed.  But the creative energy of what we call Nature, dealing with few
substances, breaks out into every form and colour of loveliness.  Here,
we have the dainty floweret which I would compare to the graceful
kindnesses passing among equals; there, the rich corn-field like the
substantial benefits which the wise master-worker confers on those around
him; here again, the far-spreading oak which, with its welcome depth of
shade, may remind us of the duties of protection and favour due from the
great to the humble; and there, the marriage of the vine to the elm, a
similitude for social and domestic affection.  The kindnesses to which I
have compared these various products of Nature, are also of one spirit,
and may be worked out with few materials.  Indeed, one man may in his
life manifest them all.  No new discovery, no separate teaching, for each
branch of this divine knowledge, is needed.

I do not say that there may not be physical discoveries, or legislative
measures, which may greatly aid in improving the condition of the
labouring classes.  But, if we observe how new things come, in our own
life for instance, or in the course of history, we shall find that they
seldom come in the direction in which we are looking out for them.  They
fall behind us; and, while we are gazing about for the novelty, it has
come down and has mingled with the crowd of old things, and we did not
know it.  Let us begin working on the old and obvious foundations, and we
shall be most ready to make use of what new aid may come, if we do not
find an almost inexhaustible novelty in what we deemed so commonplace.
There is no way of burnishing up old truths like acting upon them.

You may rely upon it that it is one of the most unwholesome and
unworkmanlike states of mind to be looking about for, and relying upon,
some great change which is all of a sudden to put you into a position to
do your duty in a signal manner.  Duty is done upon truisms.

But let discoveries in morals or in physics have come; suppose any extent
of political amelioration you please; and grant that the more outward
evils have been conquered by combined effort.  Let our drains flow like
rivulets, and imagine that light and air permeate those dwellings which
now moulder in a loathsome obscurity.  Let the poor be cared for in their
health, their amusements, their education, and their labour.  Still the
great work for an employer of labour remains for ever to be renewed; that
which consists in the daily intercourse of life, in that perpetual
exercise of care and kindness concerning those small things which, small
as they may be, are nevertheless the chief part of men’s lives.  Perhaps
the greatest possible amelioration of the human lot is to be found in the
improvement of our notions of the duties of master to man.  It were hard
to say what could be named as an equivalent for even a slight improvement
in that respect, seeing that there is no day in which millions upon
millions of transactions do not come within its limits.  If this relation
were but a little improved, with what a different mind would the great
mass of men go to their work in the morning, from the slave who toils
amid rice fields in Georgia to the serf in Lithuanian forests.  Nor would
those far above the extremes of serfdom fail to reap a large part of the
benefit.  It cannot be argued that civilization renders men independent:
it often fastens but more firmly the fetters of servitude—at least it
binds them upon limbs more easy to be galled.  Its tendency is to give
harsh words the power of blows.  Consider what a thing it is to be
master.  To have the king-like privilege of addressing others first, to
comment for ever on their conduct, while you are free from any reciprocal
animadversion.  Think what an immeasurable difference it must make,
whether your subordinate feels that all he does is sure to be taken for
the best, that he will meet with continual graciousness, that he has a
master who is good lord and brother to him: or whether he lives in
constant doubt, timidity, and discomfort, with a restless desire of
escape ever uppermost in his mind.  I do not apply this only to the
ordinary relation of master and servant.  You sometimes see the most
cruel use made even of a slight social superiority, where the cruelty is
enhanced by the education and other advantages of the suffering party.
To say nothing of Christianity, there is the greatest want of chivalry in
such proceedings, in whatever rank they take place, whether from masters
to servants, employers to employed, or in those more delicately
constituted relationships just alluded to.  In all our intercourse with
those who have not a full power of replying to us, instead of being the
less restrained on this account, which is the case with most of us, the
weakness on the other side ought to be an irresistible claim to
gentleness on ours.  The same applies when what is naturally the weaker,
being guarded by social conventionalities on its side, is in reality the
stronger, and is tempted into insolence, thus abusing the humanity of the
world.  But, let us turn from the abuse of power, and see what it is when
wielded by discerning hands.  It is like a healthful atmosphere to all
within its boundaries.  Other benefits come and go, but this is inhaled
at every breath, and forms the life of the man who lives under it.  It is
a perpetual harmony to him, “songs without words,” while he is at his
work.  One of the most striking instances we have had in modern times of
this just temperament of a master was to be noted in Sir Walter Scott.
The people dependent upon him were happier, I imagine, than you could
have made them, if you had made them independent.  If you could have
distributed, as it were, Scott’s worldly prosperity, you cannot easily
conceive that it would have produced more good than when it fell full on
him, and was forthwith radiated to all around him.  You may say that this
was partly the result of genius.  Be it so.  Genius is, by the definition
of it, one of the highest gifts.  If, with humble means, we can produce
some of its effects, it is great gain.  Without, however, wishing to
depreciate the attaching influence of genius, we must, I think, attribute
much of this admirable bearing in Scott to an essential kindliness of
nature and a deep sense of humanity.  If he had possessed no peculiar
gifts of expression or imagination, and quietly followed the vocation of
his father, a writer to the Signet, he would have been loved in his
office as he was on his estate; and old clerks would have been Laidlaws
and Tom Purdies to him.  Scott would under any circumstances have
insisted on being loved: he would have been “a good lord and brother” to
any man or set of men over whom he had the least control.  You cannot
make out that true graciousness of his to be a mere love of feudal
usages.  It is the best thing that remains of him, better than all his
writings, if, indeed, it were not visible throughout them.

The duties of master to man are the more important, because, however much
the relation may vary in its outward form, it will not be mapped down as
in this or that latitude, but remains as pervading as the air.  We may
have brought down the word charity to its most abject sense, considering
what is but the husk of it to be the innermost kernel.  Mere symbols of
it may go on.  In times, when few things were further apart than charity
and papal sway, the popes still went through the form of washing poor
men’s feet.  But that symbol has a wondrous significance—the depth of
service which is due from all masters, the humble charity which should
ever accompany true lordship and dominion.

                                * * * * *

When considering in what spirit our remedies should be attempted, one of
the most important things to be urged is, that it should be in a spirit
of hopefulness.

In one of Dr. Arnold’s letters there is the following passage.  “‘Too
late,’ however, are the words which I should be inclined to affix to
every plan for reforming society in England; we are ingulfed, I believe,
inevitably, and must go down the cataract; although ourselves, i.e. you
and I, may be in Hezekiah’s case, and not live to see the catastrophe.”
Similar forebodings were uttered on other occasions by this eminently
good man in the latter years of his life.  I quote the passage to show
how deep must have been the apprehension of danger and distress which
could so depress him; and, more especially, for the purpose of protesting
against any similar despondency which I fear to be very prevalent in
these times.  It mainly arises, as it seems to me, from a confusion
between the term of our own life and that of the state.  We see a cloud
which overshadows our own generation, and we exclaim that the heavens and
earth are coming together.  How often, in reading history, does a similar
feeling occur to us.  We think, how can the people we are reading of
revive after this whirlwind of destruction!  Imagine how much more they
themselves must have felt despondency.  A Northumbrian looking upon
William the Conqueror’s devastations—a monk considering the state of
things around him in the exterminating contest of Stephen and Matilda, or
the wars of the Roses—the remaining one of a family swept off by some of
those giant epidemics which desolated our towns in the fourteenth
century—a member of the defeated party in the struggles of the
Reformation, the Rebellion, or the Revolution—what would any such person
have prophesied as to the fate of his country?  How little would he have
foreseen the present plethoric, steam-driving, world-conquering England!
So with us.  We too have evils, perhaps of as large dimension, though in
some respects of a totally different character from those which our
forefathers endured—and did not sink under.  Nothing is to be shunned
more than Despair.  How profound is the wisdom which has placed Hope in
the front rank of Christian virtues.  For is it not the parent of
endeavour?  And in this particular matter, the improvement of our social
condition, the more we examine it, the more we shall discover cause for
hope.  The evils are so linked together that a shock given to any one
would electrify the whole mass of evil.  Take an instance.  Suppose that
those who have the means bestir themselves to improve the houses of the
poor.  See what good will flow from that.  Physical suffering is
diminished; but that is, perhaps, the least thing.  Cleanly and
economical habits are formed; domestic occupations are increased; more
persons live through the working period of life; and a class is formed
low down in the body politic who are attached to something, for a man who
has the tenancy of a good house to lose, is not altogether destitute.
And under what circumstances is all this done?  By the more influential
classes taking a kindly concern in a matter in which all are deeply
interested.  This is not the least part of the good.  Indeed, without it,
all the rest, however excellent in itself, would lack its most engaging
features.  Seeing then in one instance how much good may be done even
with slight efforts, we may determine to resist despondency.  To yield to
it, even but a little, is to help in building up the trophy for the other

Although we must not listen to despondency, we must not, on the other
hand, attempt to conceal from ourselves that this subject, the “condition
of England question” as it has been called, is oppressively large; or
suppose that it can be dealt with otherwise than by ever-growing vigour.
At the present moment public attention is unusually fixed upon it.  But
this may be of brief duration.  The public soon becomes satiated with any
subject.  Some foreign war, or political contest, may all at once turn
its looks in far other directions.  But the social remedies that we have
been talking of, are not things to be finished by a single stroke.  We
cannot expect to complete them just while the daylight of public opinion
is with us.  The evil to be struggled against is a thing entwined with
every fibre of the body politic.  It is enough to occupy the whole mind
of the age; and demands the best energies of the best minds.  It should
be a “Thirty years’ war” against sloth and neglect.  It requires men who
will persevere through public favour or disfavour, who can subdue their
own fastidiousness, be indifferent to ingratitude, tolerant of folly, who
can endure the extreme vexation of seeing their most highly prized
endeavours thwarted by well intentioned friends, and who are not
dependent for reward upon those things which are addressed to vanity or
to ambition.

                                * * * * *

After a long fit of distress which, for the poorer classes, may almost be
called a seven years’ famine, we are now apparently entering upon one of
our periodic times of prosperity.  You hear of thousands of additional
“hands” being wanted, of new mills rising up, and at last of a revival of
the home trade.  It is one of those “breathing spaces” in which we can
look back with less despondency, and forward with some deliberation.
Each man’s apprehensions for his own fortunes need no longer absorb his
whole attention.  Yet one cannot observe all this clashing and whizzing
of machinery, this crowding on our quays, this contention of railway
projects, and the general life and hum of renewed activity, without a
profound fear and sadness lest such things should pass on, as their
predecessors have passed, leaving only an increased bulk of unhandy
materials to be dealt with.  It is one of those periods upon which the
historian, armed with all that wisdom which a knowledge of the result can
furnish him, may thus dilate in measured sentences.  “A time of nearly
seven years of steady distress had now elapsed; nor can it be said, that
this distress had been lightly regarded by thoughtful minds, or that its
salutary process had not commenced.  The question of the condition of the
labouring classes had in a measure become prominent.  The Essayist
moralized about it after his fashion; the lover of statistics arrayed his
fearful lists of figures to show its nature and extent; the writer of
fiction wove it into his tale; the journalist found it a topic not easily
to be exhausted: old men shook their heads over it; and the young, to the
astonishment of the world, began to talk of it as a matter of pressing
interest to them.  Now was the time when Great Britain might have looked
into this question.  But a return of prosperity, which we must almost
call insidious, lulled attention.  Sickness and adversity are soon
forgotten.  And this nation awoke as from a bad dream which it was by no
means desirous of recalling in its daylight reminiscences.”  My friends,
let us not give an opportunity to the historian to moralize upon us in
this manner.  If we are employers of labour, let us bethink ourselves
that now is the time for persuading our men to do something for
themselves; now is the time for getting improvements made in our town and
neighbourhood, the public being in a cheerful mood; now, too, we can
ourselves adventure something for the good of those around us.  Do not
let us be anxious to drain the cup of prosperity to its last drop,
holding it up so that we see nothing but it.  Let us carry ourselves
forward in imagination, and then look backward on what we are doing now.
That is the way to master the present, for the best part of foresight is
in the reflex.  What matter is it how many thousands of pounds we make,
compared to how we make them?

“Yes,” some one will reply, “the imaginary historian deserves to be
heard.  This is the time for the nation to do something.  Really a
Government with a surplus should put all things to rights.”  Oh, these
unhappy collective nouns, what have they not to answer for!  This word
“nation,” for instance: we substitute it instead of writing down some
millions of names, a convenience not altogether to be despised.  But
yours, my friend, is there.  The word nation is not an abstract idea; but
means an aggregate of human beings.  No individual man is eliminated by
this process of abbreviation.  Your being one of a nation is to enrich
you with duties, not to deprive you of them.  But these large words often
soothe us into obliviousness.  It puts one in mind of long algebraical
operations in which the student has wholly lost sight of reality, and is
driving on his symbols, quite unable to grasp their significance.  This
may be well enough for him, for eventually some result comes out which
can be verified.  But if we, in active life, play with general terms, we
do not come to such distinct results, but only get into profound
confusion, as it will be in this case, if we expect great things to
happen from some combined effort in their corporate capacity of those
who, as individuals, are looking on.

                                * * * * *

Before we leave off, let us look at the subject in its full scope.  A
large portion of our fellow countrymen are living, not in a passive state
of distress, but in one which manufactures rapidly disease, and poverty,
and crime.  I think it has been shown that it is in the power of other
classes to raise this condition.  At any rate it is in their power to
make the attempt.  There is no occasion for waiting—each of us can do
something to-day in this matter.  Now consider what would be the effect
of success in these endeavours.  Let us not take the other result as
probable; or, even in hypothesis, draw any picture that might make
despondency plausible.  Suppose, then, the success of individual, or
united efforts, in raising the condition of the labouring classes.  What
an undivided good it is.  Has any man some particular reform at heart,
some especial hopes for his race?  Where can he look for such a basis to
rest upon as in the improved condition of the largest layer of the
people?  What a field it opens for science, literature, and art.  What
freedom may it not give to the highest ranges of thought.

I cannot think the destinies of our race an unimproving matter of
contemplation, and that it savours of presumption, or of needless
forelooking, to reflect on these things.  A notable portion of the great
human family utters every day a prayer in which the individual supplicant
asks, not for himself alone, even those blessings which he can
individually enjoy, but also, and first, implores those general blessings
which include the welfare of his own race at least.  What is the meaning
of this, if we are to take no interest in the general welfare, or not, by
every means in our power, to aid in it?

In the better order of men there is a desire for social improvement
totally independent of all thought of personal gain.  Bishop Butler saw
in the fact, that there were persons who devoted themselves to a pursuit
so remote from worldly ends as astronomy, a wonderful instance of the
innate consciousness in man of his high origin and destiny.  But an
earnest and unselfish love of social progress, is a far more satisfying
sign that the impress of good is not altogether effaced, and that men are
not wholly isolated by worldliness from the future and the past.

          “Hence, in a season of calm weather,
          Though inland far we be,
    Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
          Which brought us hither,
          Can in a moment travel thither,
    And see the Children sport upon the shore,
    And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.”



The following table shows the progressive decrease in the sum of vitality
in the three classes of the inhabitants of Preston.  The calculations are
founded on the ages at death for the six years ending June 30, 1843:—

                  1.  Gentry.       2.  Tradesmen.    3.  Operatives.

Born                           100               100               100

Remaining at                  90.8              79.6              68.2
the end of 1st

      „ 2nd year              87.6              73.5              57.5

      „ 5th year              82.4              61.8              44.6

     „ 10th year              81.1              56.6              38.8

    „  20th year              76.3              51.6              31.5

     „ 30th year              72.3              45.9              25.2

     „ 40th year              63.4              37.5              20.4

     „ 50th year               56.              28.1              15.6

     „ 60th year              45.1              20.5              11.2

     „ 70th year              25.4              13.3               6.1

     „ 80th year                8.               4.5               2.1

     „ 90th year               1.3                .8                .2

    „ 100th year               . .               . .               .03

                  Terminates in     Terminates in     Terminates in
                  the 92nd year.    the 96th year.    the 103rd year.

        _Evidence of Rev. J. Clay_.  _Health of Towns Report_, _page_ 174.

The following table shows the progressive decrease in the vitality of the
three classes from the age of 21 years:—

                  Gentry, &c.       Tradesmen, &c.    Operatives.

21 years old                   100               100               100

Remaining at 30               94.7              89.4              79.7
years old

  „ 40 years old              83.2              73.2              63.7

  „ 50 years old              73.4              55.0              48.9

  „ 60 years old              59.1              40.4              34.6

  „ 70 years old              33.4              26.5              18.9

  „ 80 years old              10.8               9.6               7.1

  „ 90 years old               1.6               1.5               1.1

 „ 100 years old               . .               . .               0.6

                  Terminates at     Terminates at     Terminates at
                  92 years.         96 years.         103 years.

        _Evidence of Rev. J. Clay_.  _Health of Towns Report_, _page_ 175.

1.  Saving by one-third of the actual number of Deaths.         £1,240
The expense of each being estimated at 2_l._ 10_s._

2.  Saving in the excess of Births beyond 1 in 44 of              £827
the Population; the expense of each Birth being taken
at 1_l._

3.  Saving in day’s labour from sickness, estimating            £7,047
one-third of the cases out of the expense.  16,710

4.  Reduction by one-half of the existing expense of              £501
Widowhood and Orphanage, the amount taken from the
actual expenditure.

5.  Saving in the expense of Insurance, by keeping the         £15,000
water on night and day, so as to be in readiness at one
minute’s notice.  Estimated on half the number of
Houses at 6_s._ per House.

6.  Saving of Productive Manure estimated at 10_s._ per        £25,000
head on the whole Population.  All liquid and solid
Manure and Street Sweepings being carried out of Town
by the Sewers.

7.  Saving in Washing, &c. consequent on the burning of        £10,450
Factory Smoke.  Estimated at 1_d._ per head per week of
the Population.

8.  Saving of outside painting of Shops and Houses;             £1,250
estimating the cost per House at 25_s._ and the saving
at one-fourth of the sum.

                                                  £.     _s._     _d._

Total annual saving to the town               47,815        0        0

Total weekly saving to the town                  919       10        4

Total annual saving to each house                  4       15        7

Total weekly saving to each house                  0        1       10

Total annual saving to each individual             0       19        1

Total weekly saving to each individual             0        0       4¼

        _Evidence of Rev. J. Clay_.  _Health of Towns Report_, _page_ 197.

                              Total Number              A.                     B.             C.                   D.
                               of Houses.       Cost per House for      Rent per House.     Total        Total Increased Rental
                                                     Capital.                              Outlay.       required defraying by
                                                                                                         Annual Instalments of
                                                                                                       Principal and Interest of
                                                                                                         20 Years for the House
                                                                                                          cleansing and Water
                                                                                                      Apparatus, and 30 Years for
                                                                                                           Sewers and Drains.

                                                  £.     _s._     _d._     _s._     _d._          £.          £.     _s._     _d._

1.  In want of water                  5,000        0       10        0        0        6       2,500         200       15        0

2. . . . main sewer                  10,000        0        5        0        0        2       2,500         162       12        6

. . . secondary do.                   7,919        2        9        6        2        6      19,599       1,274       18        9

3. . . . house-drains                10,000        0       15        0        0        9       7,500         487       17        9

4. . . . water closets               10,000        2        0        0        2        0      20,000       1,606        1        0

5. . . . ventilation                 10,000        0       15        0        0        9       7,500         602        4        6

6. . . . street-sweeping             10,000            . . .                  9        3     . .           4,625        0        0

                                       £.        _s._        _d._

Total immediate expenditure of          51,599        0              0
capital required for the
improvement of the town

Total increased rental                   8,959        9              8
(including the annual expense of

Immediate expenditure for each               5       19              3

Total increased annual rent for              0       15             11
each house

Total increased weekly rent for              0        0             3¾
each house

Immediate expenditure per head               1        3              9
of the population

Annual expenditure per head of               0        3             6½
the population

Weekly expenditure per head of               0        0       0¾ 14/52
the population

        _Evidence of Rev. J. Clay_.  _Health of Towns Report_, _page_ 196.


                                            Bedford Square, January, 1845.


To aid the memory of persons inquiring about the means of preserving
health, I have elsewhere endeavoured to mark clearly, that the four
things, fit _air_, _temperature_, _aliment_, and _exercise_, are all that
need to be secured, and the two things _violence_ and _poisons_ all that
need to be avoided, by men of sound constitution, that they may enjoy
uninterrupted health and long life;—and consequently that the causes of
all other disease than the decay from age are to be looked for in errors
committed in regard to these four necessaries, or in the direct influence
of these two kinds of noxious agents.  The tabular view on the opposite
page {282}, now to be examined, exhibits the subject to the eye.

                                * * * * *

In some moderately warm and uniform climates of the earth, such as the
Azores or Western Isles in the Atlantic, the two first mentioned
necessaries, viz. fit temperature and pure air, are so constantly present
that the inhabitants no more think of them as necessaries to be laboured
for than they think of the gravitation which holds their bodies to the
earth as such a necessary.  But in colder, or changing climates, to
procure house-shelter, clothing, and fuel, for cold weather becomes a
very considerable part of the necessary business of life.  And where food
is dear, that is to say, obtainable only as the reward of much labour, as
is true in England, the amountof labour which individuals can perform
with safety to their health, is often not sufficient to supply all the
urgent wants.

Exposure to temperature lower than what suits the human constitution is
so severely felt, that persons, even before fixed disease has arisen as a
consequence, cannot remain indifferent to it; and how little soever some
minds are disposed to reflect or speculate on such subjects, there are
few who are not aware that all the diseases which in this and other
climates are called winter diseases, as catarrhs, quinsies, pleurisies,
croups, rheumatisms, &c. &c. are consequences of error in regard to
temperature.  But only persons whose attention has been specially
directed to the subject become fully aware of the fatal influence of that
want of fresh air which the closeness or otherwise faulty construction of
dwellings occasions.  The immediate effect is little felt, although the
insidious enemy is unfailingly producing diseases perhaps more
destructive even than those from cold, above enumerated.  Impaired bodily
and mental vigour, and the scrofulous constitution which renders persons
more liable to many diseases and among these to consumption, the
destroyer at present of about a sixth part of the inhabitants of Britain,
may be cited as part of the effects.

In England, as yet, many singular and hurtful misconceptions prevail on
the subjects of both warming and ventilating.  The object of a little
work which I published some time ago on these subjects, was to substitute
for the misconceptions correct knowledge, and to describe some new and
simple means of obtaining the objects sought.  A considerable change,
however, in common opinions and habits is not easily effected, and the
co-operation of many labourers will be required to accomplish all that is
here wanted.  In a new edition of the book, now in preparation, I have
attempted to convert some remarkable errors that have been committed in
public situations into useful warnings or lessons for the future.  It is
but recently that even the members of our Houses of Parliament became
aware that many of their body formerly had lost health, and even life,
from want of a complete ventilation of the Houses, easy to be effected.
And at present the havoc made in the crowded workrooms of milliners,
tailors, printers, &c. and the injury done to young health in many
schools, from similar want of knowledge, are most painful to contemplate.
Without the requisite knowledge very expensive attempts are made with
little or no benefit; with that knowledge, the desired ends may be
completely attained at little cost.

The great error committed in regard to ventilation has been the want of
an outlet in or near the cieling of rooms, for the air rendered impure in
them by the breathing of inmates and the burning of candles, lamps, gas,
&c.  At present the only outlet of English rooms is the fire place or
chimney opening near the floor.  But all the impurities above referred to
rise at once towards the cieling, because of the lessened specific
gravity of air when heated, and there they would at once escape by a fit
opening.  Where there is no such opening, however, they become diffused
in the upper air of the room, and can escape only slowly by diving under
the chimney-piece as that air is changed.  Thus the air of a room above
the level of the fire-place, whenever there are people or lights in the
room, must always be loaded, more or less, with impurity.  The purest air
of the room is that near the floor, being the last that entered, and the
coolest, therefore and heaviest specifically; and with this the fire is
fed, while the hotter impure air remains almost stagnant above, around
the heads and mouths of the company.  To remove the evil here referred
to, I have shown, that even with an open fire, if the throat of the
chimney be properly narrowed by a register flap, an opening made near the
cieling into the chimney flue, with a valve in it to allow air from the
room to enter the chimney, but allowing no smoke to come out—will serve
very effectually; and that where there is no open fire the ventilation
can, by the means described, be made still more complete.

The great error with respect to warming in rooms for many inmates has
been to have all the heat radiating (none being given off by contact)
from one focus or fire place, persons near to which consequently must
receive too much, and those far from which will receive too little; while
the supply of fresh air enters, cold, at a few openings chiefly, and
pours dangerously on persons sitting near these.  In common rooms, with
open fires, the evils described may be lessened considerably by admitting
fresh air through tubes or channels which open either near the fire, or
all along the skirtings so that the fresh air is equally distributed over
the room and mixed with the mass of air previously in it: but to have
what is desirable, the air before distribution must be warmed by some of
the simple means now known, as of warm channels in the brick work around
the fire, or of the air being made to come into contact with the surface
of properly regulated stoves, or tubes containing heated water.  I have
given detailed accounts of these means in the publication above referred
to; and I have contrived and described various regulators applicable to
stoves and to the furnaces of hot-water apparatus, which give complete
command over the rate of combustion, and save nearly all the ordinary
trouble of watching fires.

Then, to give complete efficiency to both the warming and ventilating
apparatus described, I have had made a simple air-mover, or ventilating
pump, which may be worked by a weight, like a kitchen jack, or by a
treddle, like a spinning-wheel or turning-lathe; and which, in all states
of wind and of temperature, will deliver by measure any quantity of air
into or out of any inclosed space.

The means of ventilating and of warming now referred to, may in different
cases be adopted in part or in whole.  In the dwellings of the poor of
cities, where the same room serves for all purposes,—working at a trade,
sleeping, cooking, and is never unoccupied, a brick taken out of the
wall, from near the cieling, over the fireplace, so as to leave there an
opening into the chimney-flue, removes great part of the evil; and if a
simple chimney-valve, which I have described, allowing air freely to
enter the chimney, but no smoke to return, be added, and there be an
additional opening made in some convenient part of the wall or window to
admit and distribute fresh air, where air enough cannot enter by the
crevices and joints about the door and window, the arrangement might be
deemed for such places complete.  Even in a milliner’s or tailor’s
crowded work room a larger opening of this kind into the chimney, with
its balanced valve, and with a branching tube having inverted funnel
mouths over the gas lamps, or other lights, and conveying all the burned
air to the valved opening {287} in the chimney, is so great an
improvement on present practice, that many would deem it perfection.  To
this, however, may be added, at little cost, an opening for admitting,
and channels behind the skirting for distributing, the fresh air; and to
make the thing really complete, there must be also the means, by a stove
or by hot water pipes, of warming the air before its distribution; and
there must be the ventilating pump to inject and measure air when such
action may be required.  During the winter, in many cases the chimney
draught would be sufficient to produce the desired currents of air
without the pump.

All the means here spoken of have already been and are in satisfactory
operation in various places.  The chimney-valves have been made by Mr.
Slater, gas-fitter, 23, Denmark Street, Soho, and Mr. Edwards, 20, Poland
Street, Oxford Street.  The pump by Mr. Bowles, 58, Great Coram Street,
and Mr. Williams, 25, Upper Cleveland Street.  The stoves by Mr. Edwards,
Poland Street, Messrs. Bramah and Co. Piccadilly, Messrs. Bailey,
Holborn, and others.

                                                        I am, my dear sir,
                                                         yours very truly,
                                                                N. ARNOTT.

                                * * * * *

                      CHARLES WHITTINGHAM, CHISWICK.


   In fit Kind and          In Deficiency.            In Excess.

1.  AIR                 Suffocation             Excess of Oxygen.

                        Unchanged Air.

2.  TEMPERATURE         Cold (intense)          Heat (intense.)


   Food                 Hunger                  Gluttony, or Surfeit.

   Drink                Thirst                  Swilling water.


   Of the body          Inaction or             Fatigue or

   Of the mind          Ennui                   Want of Sleep.

                        Certain depressing      Certain exciting
                        passions, as fear,      passions, as anger,
                        sorrow, &c.             jealousy, &c.

   Of the mixed         Solitude                Debauchery.
social aptitudes.



Wounds,—Fractures,—Burns, &c.—Lightning.


Animal, Mineral, Vegetable.

Certain of these, such as _alcohol_ in its various forms, opium, tobacco,
&c. which in large quantities kill instantly, when they are taken in very
moderate quantity can be borne with apparent impunity, and are sometimes
classed as articles of sustenance, or they may be medicinal, but if taken
beyond such moderation, they become to the majority of men destructive
slow poisons.

Contagions,—as of plague, small-pox, and measles.

Malaria of marshes, thickets, and of filth.


{147}  See Appendix.

{202}  “There are several thousand gratings which are utterly useless on
account of their position, and positively injurious from their
emanations.”—Mr. Dyce Guthrie.  Health of Towns Report, vol. ii. p. 255.

{209}  “To give an idea of the principle of contour lines, we may suppose
a hill, or any elevation of land covered with water, and that we want to
trace the course of all the levels at every 4 feet of vertical height;
suppose the water to subside 4 feet at a time, and that at each
subsidence the line of the water’s edge is marked on the hill; when all
the water is withdrawn, supposing the hill to be 24 feet high, it will be
marked with a set of six lines, denoting the contours of each of the
levels, exactly 4 feet above each other.”—Mr. Butler Williams’s evidence
before the Health of Towns Commission.

{214a}  See Mr. Toynbee’s Evidence.  Health of Towns Report, vol. i. pp.
87, 88.

{214b}  See Dr. Arnott’s Evidence.  Health of Towns Report, vol. i. pp.
45, 46.

{215a}  See Dr. Guy’s Evidence.  Health of Towns Report, vol. i. p. 92.

{215b}  In St. George’s, Southwark, out of 1467 persons who received
parochial relief, 1276 are reported to have been ill with fever.

{233}  The mischief that may be done by associations for benevolent
purposes, when ill-directed, is admirably shown in a pamphlet on the
subject of Visiting Societies by “Presbyter Catholicus.”  James Darling,
Little Queen Street, 1844.  One of the objects of this pamphlet is to
show that the command addressed to alms-givers “not to let their left
hand know what their right hand doeth,” concerns the receiver as much as
the giver—that “a man’s alms will be converted into a source of almost
unmixed evil, if their distribution become a subject of notoriety,” which
is the case in public charities.  This, like most general propositions,
is not to be construed over strictly; but there is much truth in it,
(especially if we take the word “alms” in its most restricted sense) and
it deserves to be weighed carefully by all who wish to render their
benevolence most available.

{282}  The tabular view has been moved to the end of the letter in this
Doctrine Publishing Corporation transcription.—DP.

{287}  The author of this book has tried one of these “valved openings”
recommended by Dr. Arnott, and has found it answer very well.

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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.